Friday, October 29, 2004


Here's how I made myself some rustic handmade stationery.

First I should explain that whenever I endeavor to create something new, I first look to see if I can make it out of something that I would otherwise throw away. Likewise, I derive a lot of my inspiration from looking at trash and wondering if it can be put to some other use.

With that said, I will continue with my stationery instructions.

I got an envelope I would have otherwise thrown away:

I had my choice of these. Waaaaay too much junk mail in this house.

Then I carefully opened it up. Didn't need to use steam or anything. I don't have the patience for that anyway.

Then I gathered all the other necessary materials:

Handmade paper, envelope, scissors, glue stick. Not pictured is a ruler, a pen, and a cookie sheet, which I realized later I also needed.

I set the open envelope on the paper diagonally because it didn't fit any other way.

Then I began to trace and the pen went right through the paper. Doh! Got the cookie sheet, put it underneath, and kept tracing.

This is what it looked like when I finished:

Then I saw that I needed to know where to fold, so I got a ruler and started making fold lines. I used corners as reference points for drawing the lines.

Here's what it looks like with all the necessary fold lines:

I cut out the envelope:

Then I folded on all the fold lines:

I glued in all the obvious places:

And pressed it shut:

But it wouldn't stick! The paper was too thick (more on that later), and I didn't press it for long enough. So I put the cookie sheet on it, and set something heavy on the cookie sheet:

That didn't last for more than half a minute, though, because I got bored just sitting there. Thankfully, it was enough to get it to stick.

So I set out to find some paper that could fit in this envelope. I got out another sheet of handmade paper, the thinnest one I'd made, and folded it. I tried to stick it in, but the envelope wouldn't close. So I tore some of it off one side (didn't want to cut because it would ruin the look of the other 3 sides of paper) and kept readjusting until it fit in the envelope and it could close.

Here's the torn paper with another handmade sheet next to it for size comparison:

And here it is, folded and in the envelope:

Okay, now for the evaluation...

This project didn't go completely smoothly. There were problems. When I folded the sides, the paper cracked.

This is probably due to the fact that it was too thick and stiff. It could probably have been avoided had I been more careful and diligent in making them as thin as possible.

I have an artist friend who looked at my papermaking post and said I didn't use enough water in the tray. She accurately predicted that the paper would be too thick. Her suggestion to me was to use more water the next time. I will, and am very grateful for her feedback.

As for this one, am I despondent? Heavens no! I loved this project. The cracks are more cosmetic than anything else. The mini stationery set, though only consisting of one envelope and one lone piece of paper, are still useful for the purposes I'd envisioned.

Thursday, October 28, 2004


I made paper. Here's how.

I collected scrap paper for a few days. It added up much more quickly than I thought it would: fast-food paper bags, unused napkins that would have gone in the trash, bills, junk mail, envelopes with the plastic window torn out, old mapquest directions I didn't need anymore, a couple of doilies from a restaurant, etc. I tried to collect paper with as little ink on it as possible. And I didn't use any new paper, because imho, that would defeat the purpose of recycling paper.

Here's a sample of my scrap material:

I tore the paper into pieces about 1" square. Then I stuck them in an old wastebasket with water and let them sit outside overnight.

The next day, I gathered all my materials:

Blender, extension cord, water, wet paper, toes. All are necessary for proper papermaking.

I stuck the wet paper in the blender and added more water:

Then I covered it and pressed the button. From the sounds the blender was making after a short while, I surmised that I should add more water. I did, and then continued blending. This is what it looked like when I stopped:

We have a dog. She is a chihuahua. She is twelve and she still has not mastered the fine art of housebrokenness. Why do I speak of this now?

Because our attempts at trying to housebreak her (unsuccessfully) have yielded us with a formerly useless vessel.

Behold, the doggie litterbox:

Now, the papermaking tray:

That white stuff, incidentally, is the exact same stuff that was in the blender after it finished blending. Looks a lot whiter than I thought it would. Just dumped it in. Then I added water.

And cornstarch. Cornstarch is added so that the resulting paper won't bleed whatever ink you use on it.

I mixed it all up with my hands. It didn't feel like I thought it would. It's not sticky or clumpy-feeling. It felt more silty, like playing with very fine clay suspended in water. It didn't have the substance I thought it would.

I got my screens and frames:

Btw, the screen was bought in a large roll that cost $7 at Home Depot. I cut four small screens from it and folded the edges over twice. There was still plenty of screen left over. The two wooden frames are regular picture frames bought hastily at Family Dollar for $3 each. So, new materials cost a total of $13. Yeah, kinda pricey, but I'm assuming I'll be able to make all the paper I could ever want for this much, so all in all, it's not that much. You can probably pull off the same project much more cheaply if you're willing to be more patient than me.

After mixing the pulp thoroughly, I made a screen sandwich. It's just a screen held between two frames. I tried to put this in my tray and make paper that way, but the water was too shallow. So I had to readjust and fill with more pulp and more water and it was still too shallow. So then I took the screen by itself, slid it in carefully so that it was under the pulp in the tray, grabbed a frame, carefully slid it under the screen, placed the other frame on top, shifted till I thought it was an even layer and pulled the whole thing straight up. This was a lot easier to write than it was to actually do. It took several attempts for each lousy sheet.

Sorry, no pictures of the process. I was working alone that day and I couldn't hold the camera and make the paper at the same time.

But I do have pics of what it looked like after I pulled the screens out:

Having a deck for a project like this helps tremendously. I can't imagine what the inside of the house would look like if I tried it in there.

After the paper dried, I peeled it off -- it came off quite easily -- and placed it between scrap fabric I had lying around to dry more thoroughly. I placed heavy books on top of this to make the paper lie flat, flat, flat.

This is the sort of project that has a lot of leeway. A lot of instructional websites will give the impression that papermaking is this exact science and that if you don't make it their way, it just won't come out. Ridiculous.

All in all, this is a project that despite its inconveniences, I would definitely try again. Seems like the sort of thing that gets better with practice.

Pillowcase Skirt, The Revenge

I was successful in making a skirt from a pillowcase, so I decided to try something a little more challenging. A friend of ours, Ann, generously donated a bunch of her old clothes to me for use in sewing projects. As a way of returning the favor, I wanted to give a couple of her old tattered pillowcases new life. She didn't ask me to, she just said, "If you're going to use these, take them, but if not, I'll keep them because they have sentimental value." A couple of the pillowcases had some crochet edgings that had been stitched by her grandmother.

Here is one:

Here's a close-up of the same thing:

Okay, so I didn't take pictures of the progress as I made it. Mainly this is because I didn't know how it would turn out and I didn't want to invest even more energy on documenting when I was already sweating bullets just cutting into the fabric.

But here's a synopsis:

I tied up and repaired as much of the damage as I could. The pieces that weren't salvageable, I just had to let go. It didn't matter because I still had enough material to work with to make a decent skirt out of.

I estimated Ann's measurements to be slightly more than what one standard pillowcase would provide, and each pillowcase had only one side embroidered, so I separated fronts and backs from both pillowcases first. Actually, that's not true. I first cut off the crocheted edging, to be sewn on later. I cringed before, during, and after I did it, but I went ahead and did it and in the end didn't regret it.

I used the two embroidered pieces as the front and back of the skirt. Since I needed more material for it to fit, I cut up the plain backs of the pillowcases that I had left over into strips for the sides. I serged the pieces together, and then I cut up a pair of pink micro corduroy pants I had lying around into strips and serged those with the crocheted edging onto the edge of the soon-to-be skirt. Then I serged the skirt shut, making sure I had right sides together.

Then I made two buttonholes on one layer of fabric close to the top, but with enough material left over to fold down and make a casing. I straight stitched to make the casing. After that, I got lazy so for the cord I decided to chain stitch using a crochet hook and three strands of pink yarn together. I chained it until it looked long enough, and then I finished it off. Pulled it through the buttonholes and it was finished.

Here it is:

Close up of the serged crocheted edge and former corduroy pants:

This was a nail-biting project. Working with heirloom type material, not knowing if I was gonna mess it up... Ugh. The sort of thing that gives me nightmares. Thankfully, it turned out okay.

A project that took this much energy should have an equally impressive package to go in, imho. So I got a Whole Foods bag, cut it up, turn it inside out, zig-zag stitched the sides, punched some holes, and blanket "stitched" it shut with some leftover yarn.

Here it is:

Oh yeah, I also glued some leftover corduroy material on it as an accent. Looked too plain without it. Or maybe I was covering up a mistake. In any case, I'm happy with it, and I hope Ann will be to.


I made these recently:

Here's what they look like on feet:

They were knit using "Magic Stripes" Lion Brand yarn (75% wool, 25% nylon) on size 2 double-pointed needles. They are not the first socks I've knitted, but they're the first I made for myself. It took about a week to finish the pair, and I was working on other projects as well. This is not a testament to my knitting ability but rather to the simplicity of sock knitting. Hopefully as you're reading this you'll become inspired to knit that pair you've been meaning to.

Other information that could be useful:

The socks were knit using a modified pattern from the very excellent _Learn to Knit Socks_ book by Edie Eckman. If you've never knit, I suggest you make yourself a scarf before trying to start on a sock. It'll save you a lot of grief.

This book will teach you a new stitch, SSK -- slip, slip, knit. What it doesn't tell you is that it's much easier to accomplish if you use a small crochet hook for the "knit" part. When you get there, you'll see what I mean, hopefully.

I hope to post more detailed instructions with pictures in the future so that this isn't all so theoretical.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Pillowcase Skirt

I made my first pillowcase skirt last week.

First I cut off about six inches from the sewn end (not the open end). I cut this piece open and into strips which I sewed together and made the cord out of. I had to fold the resulting long strip about 5-6 times to get it to be the right size for a cord, and then I sewed it shut.

I struggled with the sewing machine's buttonholer and finally got two buttonholes done on *one* layer of the skirt. I'd accidentally done them through two layers and found to my chagrin that that wasn't going to work. :)

I folded the top down and topstitched it to make a casing for the cord. Drew the cord through the casing and, voila!

Here is the finished result from the front:

And a 3/4, kinda side view:

The drawstring is very long, so long that when I wear it I tie it around my waist twice and tie it in a knot in front. Provides a nice belted look. (Also, it covers up the buttonholes I mistakenly made through two layers on the other side. Shhhhh.) Wanted to show the cord in the pictures, though, so I tied it in a bow in front.