Another new venture, and all the fun of the fair…

Greetings cat fans!

Yesterday I finally had to give in to an urge that’s been poking me in the ribs more and more of late, and have a go at a prototype Thing. It’s going to involve learning another new skill, and this one has nothing to do with ink…

  
Yup, this one involves dusting off my sewing machine and also remembering how to brandish a needle and thread without making too many tiny holes in my fingers. Dah-dah-daaaaaaah… *waggles eyebrows ominously*

I’m going to need to learn some Proper sewing techniques to make these, but for the purpose of this prototype I just went for it – I didn’t have much time and wanted to get it done quickly so it didn’t end up as a half-made idea in a box in the loft.

I just used cheap acrylic felt, as it was to hand. For the proper ones I’ll need to research the material properly, because I want them to be hardwearing and washable. 

The first thing I discovered was that controlling a sewing machine to sew around shapes is quite hard! The second thing was that I should have had two seperate pieces of white felt, instead of one with the collar shapes cut out – doh, schoolboy error! What a silly moo! I stitched on the white felt, then cut out the black outline and double-stitched it over the top…

  
Well, I say over the top – I might have missed in a few places. See, told you my sewing skills need work! 

Once I’d got the basic design on the front done, I added the border then stitched the back and front together – and probably broke every rule in the Good Sewer’s Guide! 

  
Don’t zoom in too closely – my stitching is very embarassing!

Then it was time to add the face, which I cut out in felt and hand sewed on. I wanted to embroider it, but couldn’t find any black embroidery thread so that’ll have to wait for the next prototype. Maybe. I’m still at the planning stage, really!

For the whiskers I just used a couple of strands of wool, and loop-stitched (is that a Thing?!) them on.

Then I ran out of time! It still needs whisker-dots, collar-holes, and stuffing, but you get the idea! Meet the first stupidcats cushion:

  
It’s convinced me that this is definitely something I need to learn how to make properly to add to my range of stupidcats goodies! This one is small, about 12 inches square. The next steps will be to research materials and learn how to sew properly! Although, in my defence, I did handsew some stonking corners to a tablecloth I made a few years ago:

  
I’d like to be able to perfect the cushion-making process by September and offer them in green, pink, blue and orange – like my cards, and soon-to-be-launched tote bags. Fingers crossed!

“Why September?” I hear you cry? Well. I have a Big Event in September. A few weeks ago I received an email that I thought at first must have been a mistake, but turned out to be real! I was asked by the organisers of Kirstie Allsopp’s Handmade Fair if I’d be interested in taking a stand at their 2016 fair at Hampton Court in September – little old me and my stupidcats! I decided to go for it, so keep your eyes peeled for more news about that over the next few months. I’m hugely excited about it, and a little bit scared as it’s going to involve A LOT of work (not to mention designing and building a stand!) but hopefully it will be a real step up for stupidcats. I was delighted to be asked, and it was great to find out that social media does work, because they’d come across my work on Twitter!

Finally, an update on the tote bags I was prototyping in my last post – I’ve set myself a launch deadline of May, so it won’t be long now until you can get your paws on one!

Laters! x

UPDATE: Finished it! 😸

  

Advertisements

Inky paws…

Yo!

I shall start by giving you all a few minutes to play your favourite David Bowie song and sing along loudly. Off you go…
 
Right. I picked Ziggy Stardust – how about you?
 
And now to business. Wait, don’t switch him off – you can leave David playing as you read.
 
I’ve always fancied having a go at screen printing. And recently it’s become a more pressing need – particularly as I’d like to be able to produce my own greetings cards, and maybe even bags, t-shirts, and other fabric goodies. The thing that’s been holding me back though is the cost of all the equipment, and the lack of space on my desk in a tiny corner of one room, which I fondly call “stupidcats HQ” (the desk, not the room!). And then, the other weekend, whilst roaming around London on a bit of a jolly, we stumbled upon a little art shop. And right at the back, rather dusty and half hidden, was one of the screen printing kits I’d been looking at as a small, easy way to try the process out, and it was reduced to half the price I’d seen it anywhere else. Well, what else could I do except buy it?!
 
Monday being a rest day (I have one of those jobs where you often have to take all or half of your weekend on random weekdays) I bounced out of bed, all keen and eager for my first venture into screen printing. I’d done a little cat doodle at the weekend and decided to use him for my first test print:

img_3662

Here’s my doodle!

 
So I drew him in Illustrator on my trusty Mac and had a play with colour fills:
 

And here are a few variations of the computer version.



I decided to go with the bottom right one for my first attempt, and step one was to trace an image for each colour onto my screen:

I’d decided to use the drawing fluid and filler method for my first attempt, as I wanted the printed cat to look sort of wobbly – not clean and crisp like the computer version. And I liked the idea of painting directly on to the screen, and creating multiples copies of something hand drawn. So the next step was to draw the images in with drawing fluid and a paintbrush:

I had no idea if I’d put too much or too little drawing fluid on! I left it to dry for a few hours, then moved on to the screen filler. This involved using the squeegee to wipe the fluid down over the image in one stroke, and not to NO NEVER EVER TO do a second stroke or you’ll risk the blue drawing fluid starting to dissolve away…

I may have panicked a bit and not pressed down enough for the first few inches. Which meant the top image was completely covered in red goo. I may then have panicked a bit more and done a second wipe over the top image which is EXACTLY what you’re not supposed to do.
 
But I thought I’d plough on, as all experience is useful! I then had to leave the screen to dry overnight, then wait until the following evening before I could do anything else because work got in the way, humph!
I washed off the blue drawing fluid, leaving just the red filler behind…

…and got a bit more convinced that my double swipe of the filler had played havoc with his whiskers. Once again the screen was put aside to dry.
 
A couple of days later, when I had a bit of time to spare between shifts, I hit the ink! I just went for the blue ink supplied with the kit, rather than trying to mix anything lighter for my first attempt.


I ran off 20 prints, then masked off the blue inky bit, and when the prints were dry I moved onto the black.

Ta-daaaaaaaa! I was right about the whiskers! Now I’ve done it once, I know what to do differently next time to hopefully improve the results. I’m rather pleased with him though – the wobblyness is what I was after, although the cat outline is too thick and, of course, his whiskers have been in the wars! But all in all, it was a hugely enjoyable lesson and I’m itching to get the screen cleaned and start again – this time without dissolving his whiskers and mixing a lighter shade of blue. I’ve also got hold of another screen with finer mesh, which should help with finer details.
 
Keep your eyes peeled on my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds for progress pictures of my next attempt!
 
And finally, while we’re on the subject of screen printing, I stumbled upon something today that made me squeak!
 
Cobden Place is a restored heritage building in Nottingham’s Creative Quarter. In their own words, “Cobden Place endeavours to incubate and support an array of creatively driven independent businesses, and encourage growth within Nottingham’s design industry.” Together with print studio Dizzy Ink and screenprinting technician Tom Camp, they want to create a “School of Print”. Again, in their words: “With a variety of printing methods including risograph, screenprinting and mimeograph, the School of Print will facilitate and educate practitioners of print through a varied workshop programme and the option of membership to come and use the space and facilities once trained on the equipment!
 
COOL!!!
 
They launched a Kickstarter today to raise £8,000 to make the School of Print a reality, and have already been backed to the tune of just over £800! This would be a fantastic resource for Nottingham and beyond – please help them reach their target by backing them, and sharing the link with the world! Thank you!
 
Click here to watch their video on their Kickstarter page
 
That’s all for now folks!

My little booky-wooks…

Hello! Remember me? I’m the one that hasn’t blogged for ages!  

In my last post I showed you a sneak-peek at a notebook I wanted to make. Well, this post carries on from that…  

I’d chosen the card I wanted to use for the covers (from GF Smith‘s Colorplan range – a hefty 270gsm for the outer covers, and 135gsm for the inner covers), and after much sampling I settled on Fabriano Bioprima for the inside pages, because… well Fabriano papers are delicious to write or draw on in pencil, pen or ink! 

Next I needed to find some waxed bookbinding thread that matched the colours of the inner covers as closely as possible, and after getting samples from various places I was pleased to eventually find the perfect matches – and they were from an Etsy seller in Nottingham. Nice to keep things in the Etsy family, and also shop local! The thread is beautiful. It’s made in Ireland by Crawfords, who are reknowned for their high quality threads. It’s heavily waxed, which helps to keep the colours bright, makes stitching easier, and ensures that it holds its shape well so knots won’t come undone. 

  
So. I’d selected my materials, bought bookbinding needles, a bone folder, an awl to make the holes in the spines, a circular cutter to make the round windows in the covers, and a heavy duty corner cutter to round off the corners. And I’d done hours of research and reading about bookbinding techniques, and made a lot of practice notebooks. 

Then I ordered The Guillotine. 

Meanwhile, I was folding, punching, stitching and pressing… 

  
   

I “made” a makeshift press from two bits of wood and some g-clamps – it doesn’t look very sexy, but it does the job perfectly!

  
And The Guillotine arrived.  

Broken. 

And the seller was a nightmare. Not in the UK as they’d stated on their site, barely spoke English, and they just kept repeating that I had to send it back to them for repair or refund. Which they’d do or issue on receipt of the damaged one. But they wouldn’t provide a return address…  

And the craft fair I’d booked was now less than a week away – my stall would look pretty bare without the notebooks! 

So I activated Plan B. Forget the guillotine – trim the books the traditional way. A quick trip to our local hardware store provided a carpenters square and a very sharp, titanium bladed knife.

  
As it turned out, I’m glad the guillotine thing fell through. Trimming the three edges of each book by hand is very therapeutic, and much more rewarding. Just look at the edge on that!

  

After folding, stitching, pressing, and trimming, the books are ready to have the holes cut in the outer covers and the text and images stamped on. That might seem a little backward, but I didn’t want to cut or print the covers first as there’s always a slight variation in size after the hand trimming, and I didn’t want them to look off-centre.

  
And once the ink has dried, the final touches are added – the corners are rounded off…

  
…and the coloured packaging strip and the badge are added.

  

     

  
Ta daaaaaa! Here are the four finished designs…

  
They’re all available from my Etsy shop here

And finally, here they are on my stall at the local craft fair – it was the first proper one I’d attended, and went really well!

  

So there we have it! After Christmas I’ll be starting on cat designs for a new badgebook, and four more notebook designs. I was hoping to do a Christmas badgebook, but unfortunately the full-time job got in the way. At least I have some festive designs ready for Christmas 2016 though!

Oh, and I did eventually get a refund for the broken guillotine. Phew!

A first attempt at something new…

I’ve done a thing!

Bookbinding has fascinated me ever since I went to a craft fair in Chelsea* in the mid-nineties and watched a chap from Rook’s Books patiently sewing pages together to go in the most beautiful leatherbound journals I’ve ever seen.

“One day,” I thought, “I’ll have a go at that.” *

Today, after a chance bit of free time in Manchester, I discovered Fred Aldous (the most amazing arty-crafty shop EVER!) and came out eagerly clutching an awl (note spelling – not the hooty kind), some waxed thread and a chunky needle. Amongst other things.

And I’ve made a little book! Nothing flash, just an A7 (cat-sized!), stitched notebook, but I’m so chuffed with it! Obviously I need more practice, but hopefully sometime I’d like to be able to offer a few perfected versions in my shop. You’d love to own a little stupidcats notebook, wouldn’t you?!

So without further ado… here it is!

   

Okay, so I smudged the lettering a bit in my excitement, but we don’t talk about that! 😁

What I’d really like to have a go at is Coptic binding, but I think I have a way to go before I should attempt that…!

Right, now I need to clear all this mess up and go to bed!

Nighty night!

*Well, apart from the teeny tiny books and holiday photo albums made for dolls and teddies when I was wee!

Playing with paper…

So yes, I’ve been quiet for ages, but I haven’t been sitting on my laurels. I’ve tried my hand at a few different crafty things, and thought I’d share a few with you, starting with paper-based stuff.

I kept seeing these lovely paper flowers around, so found instructions online on how to make them – here are a few of my efforts.

Firstly a plain paper one, with a little soppy message attached… 🙂

 

Then I thought I’d be a bit clever and make one out of fabric – it took ages and I found it very fiddly sewing all the bits together! 

  

Here’s one made from the tissue paper used to wrap a bottle of whisky:

  

And an old map:

  

And finally an old comic:

 

Remember the little message attached to the first flower? It was typed on a lovely, ancient typewriter my other half bought me for my birthday:

  
How sexy is that? Anyway, another use I’ve put it to is festive messages on teeny Christmas paper-chains:

  
And finally, here’s my first and only attempt at papercutting. I laid out the type on computer first to get the size and kerning right, then used a printout as the cutting template:

  
Who knows, maybe I’ll perfect some of these things to sell in my shop at some point in the future… 🙂

I’ll share some more exploits in my next post.

Laters! x

A winning wol!

Squeeeeeeeee! My little snowy owl won the CraftBlogUK Christmas Link Party!

I’m so chuffed, I never win anything!

Massive, massive thanks to everyone who voted 🙂

Here’s my winning wol…

20111216-133012.jpg

And huge apologies to Annie, who I pipped to the post – it was a very close thing!

Annie has a great blog – please take a look! Here’s her lovely poppy picture, and link above takes you to her post about how she made it 🙂

20111216-133510.jpg

Thanks again to everyone who voted, and to CraftBlogUK for hosting such a fun party!