Saturday, November 29, 2008

Marblized Paper

I was sorting through my craft closet, pulling out all kinds of stuff and discovered my long forgotten container of acrylic craft paint (from the days when I was convinced I could be the next Donna Dewberry... turns out One Stroke Painting is a not my cup of tea...just too cutesy for me).

Well...I already knew I couldn't paint, so what on earth could I do with all this left over craft paint? I had vague memories of watching someone with a tub of water float some kind of ink or paint, swirl it around a bit, and magically create gorgeous marbled paper...but had no clue how it was done. So, off to the internet for some quick research, where I immedialy discovered that I was supposed to use a special floating medium, special inks and special papers that have been treated with a special chemical...well, dang! So much for using available materials...

I gamely went to my local craft store looking for the special art supplies and promptly gagged over the price and left. Back to the computer, looking for more information...found out you can use shaving cream as a floating medium for acrylic paint. Cool! Got out the shaving cream, drizzled the paint, swirled a little bit with a toothpick, blotted the paper on, rinsed it off and....blech! My 6 year old son would love it, but it just wasn't elegant enough for me.

Okay, one more dive into the world wide web for marbling paper with household ingredients yielded that liquid starch can be used as a floating medium. Great! I have a little bit of that on hand, so out came the big tub, the liquid starch, watered down paint (which floated beautifully!) blotted the paper down, rinsed it off and...where did my paint go!? I had this really pretty, really, really pale hint of marbled paper. Hmmm....

Turns out, Alum was the missing ingredient. Alum is used in some way for pickling and, although I've never pickled anything, it turns out I had some Alum in my spice cabinet. (Way to go Mom! Thanks for stocking it up with weird stuff I have no idea how to use.) Apparently, Alum is also used in dying clothing and papers. It makes the dyes adhere to the fibers...very cool!

The problem with acrylic paints is that they are heavier than water and just sink, so the floating medium must be thicker than water. The starch worked very well, but I didn't have much on hand and it is a bit pricey for this gal on a budget. So, I was deliberating about this little issue while making homemade cream of mushroom soup. I was adding some flour to the thicken the soup a bit when it occurred to me that hey! flour is a thickener. I love kitchen craftiness!

So, after this rather long and dull introduction to my marbling paper experiment, here are the photos to back it all up. (BTW, isn't my kitchen dreamy? It was my Christmas present last year and I am still in love with it) So, here we go:

First, using the ratio of 1 tablespoon of Alum to 2 cups of water, mix enough alum solution to have about an inch or so deep in your container. Gently place the side of the paper that you want to marble onto the liquid and wait until the edges curl up slightly, then curl back flat. Lift the paper from the solution and make sure there are no dry spots. If there are, just gently curl the paper back onto the liquid so the entire surface touches the liquid. Lift the paper from the liquid and place on a flat surface to dry.

Once the paper has dried, you can gently press it with a low iron to get the wrinkles/crinkles out. It is ready for marbling! But first...the floating medium!

When making a thick soup, I use one tablespoon of flour per cup of for this adventure, I started with a half cup of flour and added COLD water to fill up the measuring cup. Be sure to stir this thoroughly, you don't want any lumps!

I brought about 8 cups of water to a boil and added the flour and cold water mixture. Please note, the flour must be mixed with COLD water first or it will lump and clump and generally make a nasty looking mess

Turn the heat down to medium or so and stir continuously until your flour and water soup is nicely thickened. It should resemble liquid starch. For those of you who don't know what liquid starch looks like, think of a nice potato soup. Thick enough to coat the spoon when pulled out, but not so thick that it glops off.

Now this needs to cool off. You can let it sit for a couple of hours. But I am totally impatient, so I filled my sink up with some water, add some cubes and gave my soup pot an ice bath. The flour water soup cooled off in about 5 minutes and I was ready to go.

I can make the smoothest gravy this side of the Chattahoochee, but apparently, I can't make smooth flour and water soup. No biggie, just grab a strainer and collect all the little flour lumps. Doesn't that look yummy?

Smoothie break! Had to show off my favorite Holiday mug. Mmmmmm! Almond milk smoothie with bananas and mangos. Delicious!!

Now for the fun! Put a bit of acrylic craft paint into seperate containers. As you can see, I am using dark blue, medium blue, lime green and metallic gold. The metallic paint adds a really nice touch to the marbling.

The acrylic paint is too heavy and will sink, even in our lovely flour and water soup, so you must thin it down some. This takes a bit of play on your part as each paint will react a bit differently to the water. I found the dark blue needed more water, as did the gold, but the medium blue and the green didn't need as much.

This is what your paint should look like when dripped onto the flour and water soup. As you can see, the paint is floating on the surface and it sort of spreads out on the surface of the soup. If you get solid little circles of color, then your floating medium (the flour and water soup) is a bit too thick. Just add a little bit of water and stir it up thoroughly. If the paint sinks, then the paint is too thick and needs to be thinned down a bit more.

Just layer your colors on, one at a time. I use paint brushes and just sort of sprinkle the paint in. You can use eye droppers and be all careful and concise in your paint placement, but I like to just sort of throw it on the surface and see what happens.

And here's the green (which looks very yellow here...I guess I need to work on my camera skills).

There's the gold! Isn't it lovely? I think we had some science experiments in our fridge that looks like this once.

I used a wooden skewer and just zigzagged it through the paint. This would make a lovely print as it is, but I happen to prefer the 'feathered' look, so there's one more little step.

I zigzagged the skewer in the other direction to create the feathers. Isn't it gorgeous?

Carefully lay the paper onto the swirled paint. I found that holding the paper on each short side and sort of curling it so that the middle of the paper touches the paint first works the best. The edges of the paper will curl up slightly as the paper absorbes the paint and water.

Wait until the paper uncurls and lays completely flat in the water and you can see spots of paint coming through the surface of the paper. You want the front surface of the paper to be completely saturated. Very carefully peel the paper from the surface of the soup. I found that picking it up by the long edge that is on the far side and just sort of peeling it off the surface works best. Then lay it on a cookie sheet with the paint side up.

Don't worry if the paint looks like it's dripping or muddied. It's time to rinse off all that lovely flour soup.

Just pop the whole tray into a large pan of water. I used my laundry sink, but you can use a tub, if that's the only place large enough for your cookie sheet. you want the entire tray to be submerged.

Flip the page face down.

Then gently swish back and forth the rinse off the flour soup. Don't worry about washing off your marbled paint. It will be fine. Flip the page back over and gently position it back over the cookie sheet then lift the cookie sheet out of the water. The paper is a bit delicate at this point, so the cookie sheet provides support as the water runs off.

Woo hoo! Marbled paper with nice deep color.

Lay the paper on a flat surface to dry. Once dry, the paint needs to be heat set. Just use an iron set on a medium heat and press on the wrong side.

I made gift boxes out of my paper...what will you make with yours?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Amazing Shrinking Cup

I am working on some new upcycling projects and wanted to make my own buttons. I have read in several places that #6 plastics (recyclable plastics with a 6 in the middle of the arrows) work just like those shrink plastic sheets you can purchase at the store. Many take out containers are made from #6 plastics, as are some plastic cups and plates. I reclaimed some cups from my Mom's stash and started experimenting.

Being the non-scientific person that I am, it didn't occur to me take pictures of my first attempts. I figured I would cut out some shapes, punch the holes, heat and shrink and be set to go. But noooo! My shapes kept getting seriously distorted. Circles were turning out as really skinny ovals.

My son asked what would happen if we shrunk a whole cup, so we tried it out. Turns out that a cup will shrink into a disc just a smidge larger than the opening of the cup. Interesting!

So I grabbed my camera and did a little experiment:

A 5" tall plastic cup (#6 recyclable plastic)

Cut into about 1.25" tall rings

Arranged on parchment paper on a baking sheet (you can use brown paper sack as well)

Oven set at 325 degrees. I wish I could photo the shrinking process, but I didn't want to melt my camera and my oven doesn't have a clear view door.

Rings after shrinking. This is exactly how they shrank down. Should your circles be distored, the plastic is very malleable while warm, so you can fine tune the shaping if you desire.

The rings are about 1/16" thick and stiff.

So, what do you think? What do you see this technique being used for? Upcycled jewelry? Christmas decorations? Picture frames? What else?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Clean Finish Zipper Pocket Pictorial

I was making myself a fall purse and decided that I wanted to include a nice zipper pocket on the outside. I dove into my reference library, looking for instructions for zipper pockets and discovered that every single set of instructions I have, from patterns to reference books, leave the entire zipper tape exposed on the inside of the pocket. Have you ever looked inside the zippered pocket of a store bought purse? The zipper tape is never exposed in a store bought purse, so why should we leave our zipper tape exposed when we make it ourselves? I did a web search, figuring somewhere out there I would find some guidance on how to insert a zipper pocket without leaving that zipper tape exposed. Well, I didn't find any instructions, so I decided to make my own!

I am using a brown faux suede for my bag. I need to interline the fabric as it is not heavy enough on its own. Since I wanted my pocket on the outside of my purse and I needed to interline my purse, I cut the outer purse pattern out of both my fashion fabric and interfacing. If I were putting the pocket on the inside of the lining, I would have just cut a piece of interfacing that was 2" longer than my zipper and 2.5" wide.

I pinned the interfacing to the right side of the suede and marked where I wanted the zipper to be. (I use a permanent fine tip marker for most of my drafting work as it's all inside the finished project.) I changed my mind a couple of times about the size and location of my zipper, which explains why my box has a few extra lines in it...but the outline of the box is the right size...8" x .5" (finished zipper length will be about 8") .

I stitched along the marked box, turning at the corners. I then cut along the center of the opening to within .5" of the short end. I cut diagonally up to, but not through, the stitching at the corners.

I turned the interfacing to the wrong side of the suede, by pushing it through the opening and then pressed it nice and flat.

Now, onto the zipper. I cut a zipper down to the size I needed and whipped the edges of the zipper tape together above the zipper head. This just makes it easier for me to control the top portion of the zipper as I sew it in place.

I folded down .5" of the top edge of my pocket lining and edge stitched it to the back of the zipper tape.

The front of the zipper tape looks like this.

I placed the zipper into the opening I created and pinned the bottom edge into place. I then edge stitched the bottom portion of the zipper opening into place. I pulled the threads to the back of the stitching line and tied them off.

This is the backside of the zipper pinned and ready for the top stitching.

I folded the pocket lining so that the top edge lined up with the zipper tape.

I then stitched along the sides of the zipper pocket and along the edge of the zipper tape. I made sure to reinforce the stitching along the seam near the bottom edge of the pocket.

In order to keep the corners of the zipper opening nice and flat, I lifted up the suede and stitched the little triangle flap to the interfacing. You could just stitch a single line, but I really wanted this nice and flat.

The final step is to edge stitch around the remaining 3 sides of the opening. I was careful to blend my stitching together. I pulled the threads to the back and tied them off. This keeps the stitching nice and tight and secure.

Here is the pocket from the wrong side.

Inside peek of the finished pocket.

As you can see, the zipper tape is enclosed between the pocket lining and the fashion fabric and the pocket is professionally finished.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.