Archives for posts with tag: crafts

some of my earlier experiments

One of the benefits of teaching to fully engaged students is the challenges that they present to you. I am teaching a weekly course on felt-making; the first class for this new group was last week. All of the students were keen to learn, to do, to make. Outside of the enthusiasm that they brought to the class, they had all done research beforehand on the craft of wet-felt-making.

When we started the class, I gave them a brief run-down on how felting works, what the science is behind it, the basic stuff. Then we talked a little about what we would do over the next twelve weeks. Some of the students were very keen to try out some specific techniques; techniques that I’d seen others do but, admittedly, haven’t done myself. When the internet offers such a wide array of videos, blogs, and instruction manuals, it was a pre-educated group of crafting students who entered my classroom the other day!

a student in the beginning stages of making a hat

This presented a challenge and an opportunity for me to grow. While the class is on, I am “on”. I am engaged fully with the students, I guide and help and demonstrate. Sometimes I must step back and allow them to discover things on their own. During this work-time, they are concentrating and I am quietly watching what they do, or I am preparing for the next step. While this is happening, I think about what we will do in the future, what would serve my clients/students best.

Much of art-making and maintaining a practice in it is about editing. Editing specific works, editing time so that the media of choice fit into one’s life, and editing things that might not seem to fit together until they do. I have, classically, fancied myself to be a bit of a trail-blazer type whenever I’ve started something new. I would quickly learn all I could about it, see what appealed to me, then go off on my tangent to experiment with what I chose. This is normal, I think. However, when I have students who want to try out all the different things that one can do in a chosen medium, I need to be ready to teach them these things I’d seen, not tried, and had previously discarded from my own milieu of work. Because of this, over this weekend I performed some experiments with feltmaking.

there are many ways to make felt, and many potential things to teach

There is a funny thing about this situation. By prescribing myself time to experiment in things that I’d not really been personally interested in before, I have been actively pushed to make use of my new knowledge. An example: felted soap. I make and sell felted soap, now, because I needed a little something to fill in about an hour’s worth of class. Felted soap seemed interesting, sort of cool, and something easily portable for students to make and take home in one day. Now I sell my little bubbly creations in many shops around town, and on my Etsy page. Benefit!

fabric-enriched scarf - the successful experiment

A second example of a recent experiment is building fabric into the layers of wool. A student last week was keen to try this, so I agreed to teach it. I took some time to try it out, and last night I made a very beautiful scarf using this technique. A little back-story is due; as I’ve mentioned before, I once had a job in the fashion industry. While working in a sample-making room I saved scrap pieces of fabric. I prevented good, small bits of fabric from stuffing the landfill. I have many little squares of printed cotton, and I’d been trying to force myself to sew out patchwork bags and skirts out of them. I like sewing from time to time, but not sewing boring things like grid squares. Last night I took two of these squares, and ripped them into strips. I added the fabric into the scarf, and presto! It was a success. I will be making more of them, and adding another aspect to my scarf-making business!

I am looking forward to the next couple of experiments I’m planning… a large vase, and sushi jewelry in felt. Who knows what will be after that! I’ll certainly keep the dialogue open with my students, that’s for sure.

Natasha Henderson is a painter and fibre artist based in Montreal. She teaches art and felt to adults and kids. You can check out her Etsy page and personal website if you’d like to see some of her work.

Iggy, my cat who likes to stare at things.

I have a cat whose name is Iggy. He likes to stare at the wall. I can relate to this; whenever I need to step away from the distractions of my life, I will stare at something. This can prove to be a little awkward when I’m out in public. In that case it is good to find somewhere to sit, then close my eyes for a minute. Iggy doesn’t have this problem, because he is an “inside-cat”.

You might wonder why I’m writing about this right now. My rationale is that I am in a Post-Yoga-Class state. This morning I had my first yoga class of 2011, after a month’s break. My mind is clear, my breath is easy and focussed, my spine and arms and legs and fingers and feet and… everything that makes up “me”… feels good. I had intended to write about the braided rug that I am slowly working on (it’s quite a long process, being the sole crafty or creative thing in my life that I would define as a “hobby”), and as my eyes were looking up from this computer screen towards that rug, I saw Iggy. Staring at the wall. This reminded me of the state of my mind during yoga class this morning and that’s that.

braided up and ready to go...

So, this rug is composed of pieces of unused, discarded t-shirt material that I rescued from the landfill during my employment in “the fashion industry”. I worked as a sample-cutter in the sewing room of a large corporation for about a year and a half. Each garment that was designed for this company required several pre-production samples in order to pass muster, before being manufactured in China. Hence there was a lot of waste, and this sewing-room went through a lot of fabric.

At one point I decided to tuck away scrap pieces of fabrics to take home, rather than throw into the trash. The company had a lip-service “Green” policy, in that they put up dozens of posters encouraging staff to use only one paper-towel when drying their hands in the washroom. I reasoned with myself that if I should get in trouble for taking trash away from the company, that I could plead “Logic” and win. I could point out the blatant irony of all those posters, asking that people save little pieces of paper, while in the meantime we tossed out what amounted to sheets of fabric every day. As it turned out, I didn’t need to plead anything because shortly thereafter I quit.

it began... and one day it shall end.

It didn’t take long for me to amass a big sack of scrap t-shirt material at home, and I began braiding pieces together. I would just cut about an inch-wide strip, tie similar-toned pieces together, and then braid. I made several meters of braided t-shirt material. This was the easy, fun, simple, relaxing part of the craft. The more difficult task was in sewing it all together. I basically just began to wind the braid around itself on a table, stitching as I went, on one (the ugly) side. I would tuck the tied ends to the ugly side, to make sure it looked good on the top side. Of course when I began, it grew very quickly so I felt motivated and satisfied. As the circumference of the circle expanded, though, it was slower work. This is why the project remains unfinished. At the moment it exists as a sort of “decoration” in my home rather than an actual rug.

branching out... something other than a circle to stave off boredom

I do like the idea of making something out of nothing, though, and I consider this rug to be a potential Family Heirloom. In a while perhaps I’ll share with you a photograph or two of myself doing yoga on this rug, or of my cat sitting on it and staring at the wall…

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

You need: -Paper  -Good solid cardboard  -Scissors or cutting edge  -Gluestick  -White glue or rubber cement  -Cheesecloth or similar fabric  -Pretty paper or fabric for covering  -More pretty paper for inside of covers -Thread and needle

As I mentioned once before, I managed to take a book-making course during my final year of art-school. We learned various techniques to make books, and some of the simpler ones I’ve outlined here. I did promise to go over the method of making a “real bound book”, though, and now it’s time to deliver on that promise! Happy New Year… let’s make us some books!

A classically bound book has a few elements. There is a cover, there are the pages, and there are the things that hold them all together.

The little parcels of paper pages that are sewn together to make the body of the book are called signatures. When I make a book, I make my signatures first. I decide on how many sheets will be in a signature, and then I decide on how many signatures will make up the book. In some situations, you might only have so much paper available, so this guides the size and number of pages in the book. A single piece of paper that is in a signature is actually four pages, if they were numbered within the finished book. A paper-piece in the signature is the height, and then twice the width, of the finished page, folded in half. You can layer two pieces of paper, or three, or four… or many. It depends on how thick your paper is. Normally, for “art-grade” paper (thicker) I would layer about two or three pieces of paper in a signature. An older book in my collection has about ten very thin, but strong, layers of paper in each signature.

In the inside of a signature, you will see the stitching. This is an old book, finely crafted.

Once you have decided on your layered papers for a signature, you fold the pages in half, re-layer them, and sew a little stitch or two down the centre. I recommend knotting at each stitch on the outside, binding edge of the work. This will add strength and stability to the binding, and to the signature. Use about three or four strands of thread to add even more durability. Make your stitches on the “inside” of the signatures about a half-centimeter, and make the stitches on the “outside” about two centimetres. Don’t worry about the outside, binding edge of the signature, it can be messy. You won’t see it later! If you were to rip the outer binding off of a finished book, though, you would see a mix of knots, threads, glue, and something similar to cheese-cloth covering the whole mess.

When you have a number of signatures ready to be bound, the next step is in to bring them together. I can’t show you this in person, unfortunately. But simply put, just weave a threaded needle between the threads that are on the “outside” of the signatures. Knot. Tie. Weave. Make it sewn together… keeping the thread OUTSIDE. Don’t puncture the papers again. This will all be hidden, so don’t worry if it looks bad. Just try to keep the inside of the pages neat-looking!

As soon as the signatures are bound together, you have the basics for a book. The next step is to make the cover. Cut two pieces of good cardboard to a little bit larger that the size of the inside pages. Good, solid cardboard is normally found in craft stores. If you don’t have any, use your imagination. You’ll want a material that is pretty tough, that you can cut, and that won’t roll up with a bit of moisture from something like glue. An old piece of rubber or plastic could be interesting…

Once you’ve cut the outer covers, you can cut a binding-cover, too. This is big enough to cover the ugly, outside edge of the bound-together signatures. It’s ok if it is a little thinner than the depth of the book. This piece just basically provides a little structure and protection to the sewn-together signatures. In some books this piece is rolled back and forth to form a rounded-binding, in others it is straight and flat. For your first book, though, perhaps just leave this piece flat.

One of my early books: Signatures, Three cardboard pieces to make the cover, Decorative covering. Note I also sewed some pretty gold thread along the edge of the bound signatures.

You need an outside surface for the covers… a piece of fabric, a piece of decorative paper… and old fancy pillowslip, a shiny satin skirt, anything that is pretty will do. You just need enough of this to cover the outside edge of the entire book. If your decorative paper or fabric is thin (like satin or fine paper) you should glue it to another piece of good, strong and flexible paper (such as rice-paper) first. Lay this piece out on your table, pretty-side down. Lay the two covers and the little binding-cover next to one another on this piece. Keep a small distance of about 1/8″ between the covers and the binding-cover. This space is important so that the covers can open and close… this is a hinge. Make sure that this pretty covering extends at least an inch past the edges of the cardboard covers. Rub a bit of glue-stick on the surface of the cardboard covers, then place them again on this pretty covering. Press flat with your hands, just making sure there are no “bubbles” or lumpy bits of glue. Fold the edges in, glue down to the inside of the book-cover with white glue or rubber cement. What you are doing is sort of like wrapping a present, and you are doing the outside first.

Next, take your bound signature-pages. Using a bit of cheese-cloth (or similar fabric… I’ve used a number of woven, light-weight fabrics at hand for this task), cover the ugly outside edge of the bound-together signatures. Make sure there is about two inches extending past the edge, as though the cheese-cloth wants to grow into a book cover. Rub white glue or rubber cement glue over the cheese-cloth, so that it is truly adhered to the outside edge of the binding. Let this set. Good time for a coffee or tea. Cake. A film. Really let THIS glue set.

Here you can see the "decorative inside page" that is glued to the front cover, and slightly glued to the front page of all those signatures.

FINAL ASSEMBLY: Once this signature-set is dry, take the cover that you’ve previously prepared, place the signature-set in place, and glue the cheese-cloth to the inside of the covers. It helps to know that there will be a final, decorative piece of paper attached to cover all the mess. I recommend using a bit of glue-stick, then closing the book to set for a few minutes. Open the book, and rub in some white glue. Close it again, and leave it at least half an hour to really set. You can check it a couple of times to make sure it hasn’t shifted, but be careful.

Once it is dry, the very last thing is to add a thicker, decorative paper to the inside of the covers. This paper is cut to just a little shorter that the original “double-page” size, and you need one for each inside cover. The function of this decorative paper is to cover the inside of the cover (remember the “wrapped present”?), and also to be a decorative front and back page. Glue (with white glue or rubber cement) one side to cover all the uncovered-part of the inside covers. Glue a little bit on the first page of the signature-bundle, so that it is stuck to this decorative paper… about 1/4″. This way the book is solidly made, and is held together by the cheese-cloth as well as the decorative paper. Set it aside… let it dry thoroughly. Press it between some heavy books, leave it overnight. It’s all in the layering…

This old book is made with a gently rounded binding-cover. You can see the importance of leaving space between the three pieces of cardboard, so that the covers can hinge.

When you examine an old book from your shelf, or look at my photos here, you will see the basic elements to a bound book. Don’t be afraid… my first bound book was a gluey mess. The binding-cover was cut too big. I used an ugly fabric to cover it. However, by making my own book, I was then inspired to work out a fun comic to live inside the book. This developed into the first storyline for my “Cluck and Lurt” comic series! Drawing in my own book was inspiring for me. I hope that you are inspired to try some book-making yourself.

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Basic, basic, basic supplies are all that's needed for this gift. That, and an idea.

When I was a kid and Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day or Easter or a birthday or… any holiday rolled around, I would break out the felt pens and paper and glue and scissors. I would make my family and friends little imitations of “real world” honours, things like badges, crowns, and certificates. When I grew a little older I transferred this urge to cut, draw and paste my gifts into the idea of specialized coupons.

Coupons are great to offer services that cannot be wrapped up in a box: “One Free Car Wash”, “One Free Babysitting”, “One Dozen Cookies (need 24 hours notice)”, “A Vacuum of The Entire House”… you get the idea.

You could use some of the simple book-binding skills we covered the other day, as I did in the example below. Simple-simple! I just cut may paper to size, stapled once. I took care that the pointy-bits of the staple went to the inside. I also cut a little into each page just inside from the “binding”, so my coupon-recipient would find it easy to rip them out of the little book.

Easy gift: Proving that it's the thought that counts.

All of the papers in the Coupon Book were destined for Recycling… they’ll still be recycled, just are being diverted along the way.

Natasha Henderson in Montreal, wishing everyone a Happy Holiday and a Merry Christmas!

A simple sewn oval-shape, complete with bell and catnip inside...

Simple toys for your and your friends’ cats are an easy gift to DIY at this close-to-the-end juncture. Little mouse-shapes, balls with catnip and crumply things inside (such as plastic packaging) are simple to make. Just cut a circle or oval shape, sew it together “inside out”, then turn “outside out”, and sew on a little patch for ears/face.

Mice are nice! If... you are a cat.

I used felt for the body, and then sewed a little ball of wool on top as a nose. When I stitched the two oval pieces together, I took a piece of raffia and set it to be the tail. It’s a double-tail, for a super- fun mouse that is beyond the usual. Also, by doubling the raffia (or wool) there is less chance of the tail being ripped off during exuberant play.

Another idea you could make for a kitty (and their human pals) is a little set of Cat-Grass. My cat-grass is a staple in Iggy’s diet (my cat’s name is Iggy) as he is a completely-housebound cat. He needs some greens in his diet to aid in digestion, and to keep the barfsies at bay. We are all happy when Iggy has a supply of cat-grass. You can give your friends a little cute pot of dirt, and a little packet of either cat-grass (available at many pet stores) or oat seeds, if you can find them.

Kitties appreciate cat-grass. If your cat "throws it up" the first day, don't hide the grass from your cat. They've just binged due to excitement. Once cat-grass is a regular part of your pet's life, that won't happen any more.

Natasha Henderson, purring in Montreal

The book Random, Absurd Poetry is an externally bound book. You can see excerpts from this book on this website.

We’re getting into the crunch-time for gifts, be they DIY or store-bought. We all love DIY gifts… but who wants to shop for supplies right now? It’s mayhem out there! One thing you can make out of simple materials that you might have on hand, is a book.

A book’s construction has three basic elements: the covers, the pages inside, and some sort of binding-method. I won’t go into the intricacies of book-binding here, but I will suggest some simple ideas for book-making.

A long strip of paper glued together, and a couple of covers form a simple book.

When I took a book-making course back in college, the very first book we made was a zig-zag accordion format book. Basically, we took pieces of paper and glued them together to form a long strip, then folded that strip into a zig-zag. We then cut some hard board to a little larger than the folded pages, and glued the accordion of paper inside the two covers. Simple.

You could leave the book blank, or fill it with art, poetry, a story... etc.

Another idea for simple book-making is to just staple. Make your cover, make some pages for inside, and add a couple of staples to “bind” them all together. A lot of poets and underground zine publishers use this method to make their books.

A little more fancy idea, but very beautiful, is to create an external binding. I have three examples of this: in one, my friend used an elastic and a stick to bind his book. In the two others I used materials to “sew” the covers and pages together.

This poetry Chapbook is small, just a few pages held together with two staples.

Now, as for the covers, I do recommend a board that is not soft and mushy like corrugated cardboard. However, if that’s all you have, then perhaps gluing a couple of pieces together would be sturdy enough to use. You can cover the covers of your book with decorative paper or fabric, just wrap it like a present. On the insides of the covers glue another piece of paper on top to cover the ugly-bits nicely. Really take a good look at some of your older, bound books. You’ll see a real artistry to it. One of these days, maybe in February, I’ll go over some more intricate book-binding options.

My friend's book on the left, my book on the right. Just punch holes through the covers and insides of the book, and you can bind.

The insides of the book? That’s up to you! You could share a favorite family story, a children’s story, draw a cartoon, paste some photographs… share some favorite poems, or leave it blank. Everyone needs notebooks!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Last Christmas one of my favorite gifts to receive was a set of handmade fridge-magnets. My pal made these with old bottlecaps (never throw them away again!), glue, magnets, images, and glitter. Remarkably simple, and completely fantastic. This link provides clear instructions on how to make them, but basically, you just need to apply those objects together in a way that makes sense. One good note is that “you want to glue the non-magnetic side so to the bottle cap and leave the magnetic side exposed so it adheres to metal.” Yup!!!

My friend gave me a Catholic picture to remind me of her, and two Simpsons images chosen especially for me.

Natasha Henderson in Montreal

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