Rubber stamps from fabric paint

Every once in a while you come across a tutorial that is truly different from the herd and makes you think “What an interesting idea!” Such was my reaction when I came across a post on Mel’s Own Place about making rubber stamps with puffy paint and plastic bottlecaps. Amazing! I’d been wanting some custom stamps but didn’t think cutting them out of erasers with X-Acto knives was going to go well.

Making stamps from bottlecaps and 3D paint.

The stamps I wanted were planner stamps: a recycle symbol to mark recycling pick-up days, and an envelope back to make occasions for which I want to send cards. That way they could be large and visible without really taking up space, because I could write over them easily. I indentured my husband to play with paint with me.

I had two kinds of 3D paint in my stash: Tulip dimensional fabric paint and Scribbles 3-dimensional paint. The taller bottle of the Tulip was easier to control (more in squeezing than aiming), but the Scribbles seemed to keep its shape better while drying – Tulip flattened out a bit. We found we needed 3 rounds to get truly good images. The papers in the picture below show the images after 2 rounds (rectangular) and 3 rounds (hexagonal) of painting – the third round was really just local touch-ups.

Stamps made from bottlecaps and three rounds of 3D paint; impressions after 2 and 3 rounds of paint shown.

As you can see from the Oh You stamp on the hexagonal paper, you still have to be careful and press on all areas of the cap to get a good impression. If you catch the paint at the right moment you may be able to flatten it down a bit while it’s dry enough not to stick but still soft in the middle; I was able to do that to some extent with the recycling symbol.

All in all, though, it’s a great idea – quick, easy to correct errors (more than just heightening low spots: you can see the giant smear of paint in the first image, and there were others on different sheets of newspaper), and fun.

Ten lessons down, twenty to go

I’ve gotten through the first ten lessons of You Can Draw In 30 Days, so I thought I’d show some highlights. Unfortunately my computer refuses to talk to my scanner (or perhaps vice-versa) so I have photographs, which are really not the optimal way to present drawings. Also WP apparently doesn’t allow captioned photos to share a line, so it’s going to be a tall post.

introduction "pretest"

The book’s “pretest”: spending two minutes on each, draw a house, a plane, and a bagel.

lesson 1: the sphere, plus bonus challenge

Lesson 1: The Sphere. Spheres with shading, and a bonus challenge to draw a high-contrast, black and white photograph of an apple.

bonus challenge to lesson 3: advanced-level spheres

Bonus challenge to Lesson 3: Advanced-Level Spheres. Illegible notes say “sunken sphere?” on the left and “too close. needed more position difference” on the right.

lesson 5: hollow cubes, plus bonus challenge

Lesson 5: Hollow Cubes, plus its bonus challenge to draw a treasure chest. Word out in space is “undershadows.”

Midstream materials report: I’ve been using drawing pencils I’d purchased some time ago, Staedtler Mars Lumographs. The images above (from lessons 1-5) were drawn with a 4B and those below (6-10) with a 2B. I like the variety of shades of the 4B but prefer how much longer the 2B keeps its point, so I plan to try out a 3B to see if it’s a good compromise.

I started out with a Paper Mate White Pearl eraser, which worked okay (it’s perfect on the rougher/cheaper paper of Games Magazine, by the way), but bought some others at the art store to try, along with some blending stumps, though I haven’t used those much. The Faber-Castell PVC-Free eraser was okay, but kind of plasticky. I’ve been very happy with the Staedtler Mars Plastic, though. It erases really well. Of course it’s probably designed to work well with my Staedtler pencils. I also have a Prismacolor Kneaded Rubber eraser, but I haven’t used it yet. I’ll probably try to preserve it for fine erasing and use the Staedtler for anything that doesn’t require precision.

bonus challenge to lesson 6: stacking tables

Bonus challenge to Lesson 6: Stacking Tables.

bonus challenge to lesson 7: advanced-level cubes

Bonus challenge to Lesson 7: Advanced-Level Cubes.

anthropomorphic vegetables

I asked my sister what I should draw for her birthday. Her answer was “anthropomorphic vegetables.”

another bonus challenge to lesson 7: advanced-level cubes

Another go at the bonus challenge to Lesson 7. I never actually drew it in, but this was a place I was able to take advantage of my husband’s drawing ability, by asking him how he would do the shadow of the elevated box on the ramps and ground.

The vegetables were drawn with plain old Crayola Twistables colored pencils, which are terrific to get some variety of color without so much it that becomes paralyzing. This set has red, red-orange, orange, yellow, yellow-green, green, sky blue, blue, violet, light brown, brown, and black. I have a book called “Draw Cute Animals in Colored Pencil” coming soon, so they will get more use.

When I made my felted pencil bag I thought it was probably overkill size-wise, but with 16 pencils, 2 erasers, 2 stumps and a stump cleaning paddle, it’s pretty well full.

warmup to lesson 8: cool koalas

Warmup to Lesson 8: Cool Koalas, practicing texture and using texture to shade. Chicken scratch says “unfocused my eyes & just dashed or scribbled – not focusing allowed seeing the darkness more than the individual pencil strokes.”

lesson 8: cool koalas

Lesson 8: Cool Koalas. Writing: on right, “1. not half bad.” On left, “2. worked inside-out. looks like he’s wearing a sweater. :-)”

I spent a total of 22 drawing sessions on those ten lessons (including one for the “pretest”), plus 5 sidetracks in the midst of them (and 9 sessions prior to starting the book). At the present rate it’ll be 30 weeks rather than 30 days; that’s fine, I’m learning patience in addition to drawing. Originally I thought a year of drawing might be adequate to get me where I wanted to be, but now I’ll be pleased if it’s merely two years. I’m certainly much more confident than I was, and (I think) also much better – or at least my quality is more reliable. My approach is different and in particular more measured. However, a year just isn’t a long time when it comes to learning a new skill of any depth (duh). After I finish this book I’ll have a lot of work left to learn shading, which is addressed but not at all thoroughly, and facial expressions, which certainly aren’t part of the curriculum. Shading in particular could easily take another 30 weeks to feel confident about.

I think Lesson 7’s bonus challenge (crazy geometric buildings) and the warmup to Lesson 8 (fuzzy, spiky, and wooly balls) were my favorite parts of 1-10, the former because it felt like I was successfully drawing something “real,” and the latter because I thought they turned out really well.

I’ve improved enough that I don’t have to force myself to continue. I regularly have trouble fitting drawing into my day, but it’s rewarding even at the frequency with which I do it. One realization I had at about lesson 8, seeing my husband drawing with friends, is that my lack of drawing skills was a hindrance to me enjoying the activity (in contrast to, say, my lack of bowling skills), and I certainly don’t have to be Rembrandt to get past that problem. I don’t know that I’m quite there yet – I’m still pretty self-conscious about the act of drawing – but it shouldn’t be long.

Mystery afghan final thoughts (and pictures)

The afghan is washed, all loose ends are trimmed, there’s a gray duvet on the bed (thanks, Mom!) and the afghan is on top! And it only took almost two months. With much contortion to get this photographed in our tiny bedroom, here it is in situ.

finished mysteryghan on bed

And some thoughts….
I have no idea how to make the fuzzy tips of the yarn disappear. In amigurumi, you just hide them inside a stuffed part of the piece. Here, no matter how good my weaving job (and I can’t say it’s that good) I can’t seem to hide the very ends of the yarn.

I’m very pleased with the look and structure of my join. It lends the piece such interest.

I like the feel of Red Heart With Love much better than Classic – some of the Classic was almost crunchy off the skein – but it was unexpectedly difficult to find two coordinating shades of gray. After washing, it’s better, but still clearly not as soft.

I’m in no hurry to make another item this large!

So you can see all of it, I undertook some additional contortions to spread it out on the floor. It doesn’t really fit but you can see it pretty well anyway.

finished mysteryghan laid out in the living room

Miscellaneous March 2

Continued from yesterday

Third! I worked on a shoulder wrap, but this one I actually unraveled. It still has a project page on Ravelry (again, Rav account required for that – at least I’m pretty sure), but the short version is gauge problems. According to my gauge swatch the wrap should have been huge (couldn’t go smaller without making the fabric stiff), but when I actually made it the only thing that was bigger than it ought to be was the neckline ribbing, and that only widthwise. In every other direction it was too small (well, the length would have been fine I think), and I also wasn’t so keen on the way the yarn variegation was playing with the cabling.

frogged shoulder wrap, back frogged shoulder wrap, front

You see, on the Premier Yarns website, the picture for this colorway is green and white with a little bit of brown – there is not a trace of blue or gray to be seen (you can see it on this page – the color name is Ruins). It was quite a surprise when the yarn arrived! I still like it, but it detracts from the visual unity of the cables. I’ll use this yarn for something else and make the shoulder wrap with more solid colored yarn.

Let’s finish up with another successful project, albeit one that was arguably even more purposeless than the tooth: an afghan square. Julie Yeager – who designed the mysteryghan – ran a free, short mystery crochet-along, and I thought “why not?” Here’s the square, called Fantastic:

afghan square Fantastic, five of 7 clues completed afghan square Fantastic, finished

I used some leftover mysteryghan yarn and some greens from my stash.

Miscellaneous March 1

I did a few projects in March that didn’t merit a post, but for which I have some photos to show. There ended up being 4 so I’ve split them up into two posts. Let’s start with the one that definitely worked out: a tooth!

embroidery floss amigurumi tooth from front embroidery floss amigurumi tooth from back

Ages ago I asked on the ReveDreams Facebook page for items I could crochet out of embroidery floss, and my aunt suggested a tooth. There it is at long last. It has only two roots mostly because it’s a pain to work that small, with the reverse-engineered rationale that this way, it can sit on the edge of something.

Second, one that I completed but that really didn’t work out so well: a pair of slippers. If you have a Ravelry account you can see more of the saga on my project page for these, but long story short, after a good deal of effort to resize these, they are a bit loose and not at all the same size as each other. Crochet chain shoelaces mitigate the problem but don’t quite fix it.

finished slippers, unlaced finished slippers with laces

One thing I would consider doing again, though, is adding loops of yarn to the perimeter of a felt sole for ease of sewing it to the bottom of crochet slippers. That way I could use a blunt needle, and should the sole wear out it will be easier to remove and replace than it would be if I’d used a sharp needle to sew it directly on. That’s 3D fabric paint on the bottom, my attempt to add traction. It works better than I expected but we’ll see how well it lasts (likewise the loops of yarn, some of which appear to be pulling out already).

slipper soles showing yarn on edge slipper soles, sewn onto slippers

Bis morgens!

Flat felt

I’d like to make a needlebook to keep my specialty needles, since right now they are insecurely occupying their original package. Needlebooks typically have wool felt pages, and I thought to make it particularly special I could make the felt and cut it into the pages. I found a straightforward tutorial on rosiepink, and I already had the materials.

It went fine, but definitely not as planned. I didn’t realize my bamboo sushi mat was comically tiny, and as it happened my netting wasn’t much better and I didn’t have a spray bottle to sacrifice to the cause like I thought I did. After I finished the first one I decided to try to make another, and be more tidy about it – the first one grew as I layered, giving it a large messy perimeter, and the middle layers of wool show through the outer ones quite a lot.

making flat felt making flat felt

Tutorial modifications: I wanted to decorate the lower side, so I laid netting over the bubble wrap before starting to layer fleece, but in retrospect I’m not sure that was necessary. The netting is definitely desirable for the rubbing step, but you can always move it if you flip the piece (which I did, at least the second one). My needle felting stash has both smoother and coarser wool, so I sandwiched two layers of coarser wool between two layers of smoother wool. It seemed like a great use for some beautiful variegated fleece I’d been hanging on to – three of the sides use that. I only decorated one side of the first piece, with contrasting fleece at different angles, but I put strands of crewel wool on both sides of the second piece. They may need a bit of needle felting to fully stay put. Fortunately this felt won’t see rough handling.

making flat felt making flat felt

My whole sheaf was a lot larger than both the piece of netting and the bamboo mat, so while I did the rubbing with bubble wrap step (though I dipped it in soapy water rather than rubbing it on a bar of soap), after that I couldn’t make the original tutorial work for my setup. Instead, I laid the non-netted side of the wool against a piece of bubble wrap, laid both pieces of netting on top, rolled it up, and squeezed and turned it all along its length, with a hand motion similar to rolling up a sheet of gift wrap. I did make sure to rotate the felt 90 degrees occasionally and flip it at least once, and it worked! Here they are all nice and dry, after a touch of the iron while they were still wet. I know these pictures are somewhat small but you can click them into larger versions.

finished, untrimmed felt finished, untrimmed felt

You can’t get the real effect, though, until you trim off the raggedy edges, so here’s that view:

finished, trimmed felt finished, trimmed felt

I got a little bit of dust from the dark green wool when I cut the edges off. Hopefully they are actually stable. I am not sure I have the necessary patience for hand-felting. Of course, I can always whipstitch the edges once I cut them down into squares, after I decide how large my needlebook will be. I plan to give it a fancy cover as well, so you’ll see this again.