Twenty Minute Makes

Remember the ‘Ninety Minute Makes’ post? Well, while I was in New York, I had an e-mail asking me to come up with another activity for the autumn craft night just a week later. As before, it would have to be inexpensive and achievable for both beginner adults and older children, with fairly foolproof results. Also, someone else would be demonstrating how to recycle a man’s tie into a mobile phone pouch and if the crafters wanted to have a go at both activities, mine would need to be super quick.

Back in July, a friend and I went to the CreateandCraft TV Summer Crafting event.  This was one of the best value shows I have ever been to, just £5 entry with lots of goody-bags and free ‘make-and-takes’. Here she is with Jenny from the Great British Sewing Bee making a fabric corsage.

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The point is, these were all quick makes, suitable for a mixed crowd, so perfect ideas for our craft night. One of my favourite demonstrations had been by the extremely enthusiastic MDFMan who showed us how to cover blank shapes with scrapbooking papers. Here’s how mine turned out.

IMG_2640They are so easy and effective with no special kit required. Pick the right paper and it does all the work for you. MDF blanks come in all sorts of shapes and sizes so you could develop the idea for clocks, boxes, letter racks etc. I paid well under £4 for a bag of 10 large shapes with pre-drilled hanging holes. The MDF Man is demonstrating at shows throughout the UK at the so do check his website or Facebook page for where to see him in action and have a rummage through the shapes on his stall.

I tested the instructions for the technique as far as I could remember on my nine-year old ‘volunteer’ before going live at craft night. First she chose her favourite paper. We used good quality thick scrapbooking paper but wallpaper off-cuts might be worth a try too if you wanted to co-ordinate a colour scheme.

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Squeeze on a dollop of PVA glue (I like Anita’s Tacky Glue) and spread it evenly around. The MDFMan swears that fingers alone work best for this! Just have a pack of baby wipes handy to keep your work clean.

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Put the MDF shape face-down on the paper making sure there’s no creases. Make sure your paper is on a clean flat surface and of course the right way up! (If you are more discerning than us, you might want to consider where your areas of pattern will fall, or how you can arrange shapes for minimal paper waste). Give the shape a little wiggle to help it stick.

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Next cut roughly around the shape. No need to be neat about this at all.

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The paper edges get their neat finish by sanding. We wrapped a 6 inch ruler with some sandpaper. Fine or medium grade seemed to work well.

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Hold the ruler at 45 degrees to the top surface and sand the paper off in a downwards motion. Don’t see-saw or this will lift the paper up. You can be pretty rough with it and the paper will drop of itself leaving an impressively neat edge. (Apparently it’s impossible to complete this stage with your mouth closed!) If you have any awkward angles on your shape, then a nail file might be helpful to get into the grooves.
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While the glue is still wet, poke a blunt stick gently through the hole from the back to the front. A thick darning needle worked well. Then turn it over and wiggle from front to back (the needle that is, not you!) IMG_3721

You might decide to cover both sides of the shape. My volunteer decided she wanted to and repeated the steps above.

If you want to give the surface a more distressed look, you can give it a gentle rub with a sanding sponge. This tends to look more effective if you concentrate around the edges and particularly when you use darker papers. Do be careful that the paper is not still wet though, especially if you overdid the glue or you could drag chunks of the surface off.
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That darning needle will come in useful again once you have chosen your hanging thread. IMG_3724

Then you can embellish the surfaces however you like. You could sponge colour around the edges if you don’t like the edge of the MDF or want a more antique effect. We kept ours simple this time, just with little ribbon bows stuck or tied on. At the show I also bought some Christmas bauble shaped blanks. They will definitely be getting some extra sparkle and bling when we have a go at them in a month or so and I like the idea of stringing them up together like bunting.

Here’s the finished heart below, along with a couple of others I used to demonstrate on the night. I’m pleased to report everyone who had time wanted to make a second after they had finished their first one.IMG_3726 IMG_3727 IMG_3728

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What I did last Summer

Summer has flown and I’ve been lucky enough to get about a bit this year. First stop was a relaxing fortnight in Portugal. Without the distractions of technology, we got engrossed in paperbacks, discovered beautiful beaches and reconnected with family and friends the old-fashioned way, face-to-face. My 12 year-old cracked crochet, which is the ideal portable craft for holidays. Before long she could churn out granny squares in her sleep. (I was slightly miffed as it took me so much longer to learn!)  We progressed onto flowers and made these below for the community display at next weekend’s Yarndale festival. (The background is my ripple blanket that’s been steadily growing over the summer.) There was no need to worry about mixing yarns, getting the right tension or making the odd mistake, we just needed to make them as colourful as possible. More about this project to follow after my Yarndale trip next weekend…

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Being on the Atlantic coast we experienced spectacular sunsets and I loved how the same walk on the beach would look quite different every time depending on the tides and the weather. Even the stormy skies at the beach were quite beautiful.

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Back to work for a few days then Mum and I flew to New York for a week to celebrate her big birthday. We had plenty of adventures and memorable moments.  Meeting Judy Murray at the US Open Tennis after watching Jamie win an excellent doubles match was definitely one of them. The folks back home saw us on TV waving our flags and celebrating!

Last time I was on Manhattan was 9/11. Two days before the twin towers fell, I was sitting at the top enjoying a meal, oblivious to how the next few days would terrifyingly unfold. Looking out now at this new skyline and reflecting, I was encouraged by how well the city has recovered and remembered.

IMG_3459There is such much inspiration and creativity to be found in this city. Walking the High Line, an urban park built on an abandoned rail track we were surprised and delighted by the elevated street views and artwork amongst the colours and textures of the planting.

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This ‘graffiti’ is actually found steel formed into 3ft high suspended words by the artist Damian Ortega.

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Turning another corner we saw this thought-provoking street art by Banksy.

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I was so pleased that we fitted in a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the morning before flying home.  The museum is vast and I had wondered whether we could do it any justice in just a few hours and get over the guilt of racing past and ignoring great and important works of art. Our strategy was to take an hour-long museum highlights tour (excellent) to get our bearings, then re-visit just a few of the galleries, and focus on a few paintings there that had captured our imagination.

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The space and light in the galleries was wonderful, especially being able to get up close to the paintings without peering through crowds of people. Amongst my highlights was seeing one of Van Gogh’s original ‘Sunflower’ series. It felt a real privilege to see the true colours and the textures of his brush strokes.  Also a painting that was brought to our attention by the tour guide. It portrays the chemist Antoine Lavoisier and his wife. They are both extremely interesting characters in their own right who lived through the height of the French Revolution and had an endearing relationship that is recognisable in the composition. How the drapes and textures of the various fabrics are captured in oil paint by the artist Jacques-Louis David is incredible. Notice how realistically thin the glass of the flask appears with the light source reflected in it.

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So two contrasting holiday experiences, one relaxing, the other fast-paced and energising.  I’ve returned to my day-to-day routines this month feeling rejuvenated, inspired and itching to get back to making of course!