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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas project 2015

It's that festive time of year again when craftsters get creative! :-)

This year's upcycling project for office gifts for my colleagues involved small round plastic containers - the kind that you tend to accumulate when you shop for nuts, dried fruits or other condiments.

Instead of throwing them away to languish in a landfill for eternity, I decided to repurpose them into colourful containers in which to put chocolates. All decorations were made out of leftovers from last year's christmas wrappers and some red crepe paper. Craft punchers and stencils were used to shape the embellishments such as stars and christmas trees.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

How to upcycle a normal paper bag into a gift bag

A lot of the stuff we buy from the department store comes in a paper bag. Sometimes (not always!:-) these bags are pretty sturdy and of good quality, plain in colour, with a handle.

Perfect in fact, for giving gifts in. It seems a waste to just throw these bags away, especially since we often end up buying plain paper gift bags, to put gifts and other stuff in.

Then again, these bags often have logos, slogans or store advertisements on them, so they may not be suitable as gift bags. Hmmm....

Then I got the idea to use paper scraps and cuttings, basically the stuff I use to make cards, to decorate paper bags as well - thereby creating my own personalised gift bags!

First, hunt down some paper cuttings and scraps that match the background colour of the bag, and then cut out shapes that are large enough to obliterate any visible logos, slogans or other markings. You may want to keep some of the existing designs on the gift bag visible, if they kind of "blend in" with your paper scraps. Stick them on with glue or cellophane tape, secure them in place by covering them with strips of cellophane tape, and ...voila! Your own upcycled personalised gift bag!  :-)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

How to decorate a tea-light jar with mehndi designs

Tried my hand at another variation of jar-decorating - adding a tea-light!

First, I prepped the jars by washing them, removing the labels and drying them thoroughly.

Next step, use a sponge dipped in glass paint and apply all over the jar to create an even, speckled look. This is so that there'll be a background colour, but you could also skip this step if you have a very smooth, clean jar surface.

Now, you'll need some designs. There is lots of inspiration to be had on Pinterest, Youtube and on the net in general. Besides  tutorials, you can also look at the kinds of decorations others have used on their tea-light jars. The easiest thing to do would be to download some mehndi designs from the net, and practice drawing them on paper first with a pen or pencil.

Finally, once you've identified your design and practiced drawing it, transfer the design onto your jar using a black glass painting pen (these are available at craft stores). The thinner the tip, the more elaborate the design you can pull off. I had to make do with simpler designs as I couldn't find a really thin-tipped pen :-)

It can be a bit challenging to draw on a surface that's not smooth or has already been painted on. One tip would be to make sure the ink is always flowing freely on your pen. If it feels like it's drying out, stop, shake the pen and test it on a piece of paper to get the ink flowing again.

If it's a tall jar, you'll need to put in a filler - stones, shells, marbles, dried spices, anything you fancy - before dropping in the tea light or else, the candle will just go out once it reaches the bottom of the jar! :-)

Thursday, August 06, 2015

How to use old photographs to personalise handmade cards

Recently, I was going through my collection of landscape photographs and hit upon the idea of using some of those images to personalise my handmade cards.In the digital era, anyone with a smartphone can accumulate thousands of images in a short span of time.

But what does one do with all those photos?? More often than not, the answer is nothing :-)

How about this - every week (or every month) take some time to curate your images. Select a few and get them developed/printed. If it's an image that you really like, get a few copies made of the same photo.

Use them to personalise handmade cards. Crop the photograph to fit the space designated for it on the card you are making. The result? A card that is truly personalised... rest assured no one else could have taken quite the same photograph in quite the same way! It's also a wonderful way to rekindle happy memories of the past.

In this card I used an old photo I took years ago, of a beautiful seashell I found nestled in the sand on a beach. The image was cropped to fit the inside of the card  using craft scissors to create a decorative border. The other photos are of the other pages of the card.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

How to upcycle plastic containers

Plastic containers…in Malaysia, they’re everywhere. There is no escape. Almost every product you buy is packed in some kind of plastic container. Round, square, rectangular shaped, cup-shaped… there seems to be a perfect-sized plastic container to suit just about every need and occasion! :-)

The question is, what happens to these plastic containers after the food inside them is consumed? Well, they can be recycled to an extent ie. washed out and re-used for storage and other purposes. But seriously, this can only be done for a while as there are only so many plastic containers every household needs! The number of containers coming in usually far exceeds the number of containers going out – so after a while, to avoid literally swimming in plastic containers, one ends up having to dispose of them. And it’s not always convenient to locate a reliable recycling centre or drop-off point, so they might just end up in a landfill somewhere.

So is there anything else one can do with them?

One suggestion is decorate them and use them to put gifts or other items such as notebooks or craft items into. For paper crafters, pieces of scrap paper left over from other projects would be the obvious go-to decorative item. All you’ll need is some craft scissors, glue, cello-tape and scrap paper.

I’m sure quilters and people who work with other materials such as cloth and mixed media materials, would find other items to decorate the containers with. This is not just a good way to use up scrap bits of paper, cloth and other items, but also a way to turn plain plastic containers into reusable decorative or functional items.

A great project for kids too.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

How to make cloth bags and cloth wrapping

Fabric is the new paper!

Well, not exactly. The Japanese have been using it to wrap gifts and make all sorts of accessories like bags and headwear, for centuries. They call it "furoshiki". And as with all things Japanese, the ideas and designs are gorgeous and creative.

Inspired by this website I came across, I tried my hand at a few.

The more complex furoshiki designs seem to be made using a special stretchable cloth (which I don't have) - but a bit of research revealed that people use all sorts of different kinds of cloth and still get pretty good results. So I tried it with saree material using squares of material from old sarees which have become brittle and tear easily. The ivory-coloured cloth was left over from some curtains I got made! :-)

The bag was easily made by cutting out 2 pieces of cloth, sewing in the seams or rather hemming it and turning the bag inside out. The string was attached by tying it around the top, folding the cloth down and sewing the seam around it. Don't forget to tie a knot though or the string might disappear in the seam :-)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

How to make a paper quilt card

I've always been entranced by paper quilts. (Also by fabric quilts, but those always looked like a lot of work so I've never tried my hand at making one! :-)

Watched a couple of online tutorials on paper quilts and decided to try my hand at making one. And to also make it double up as a homemade card.

Step 1, buy a blank card. (You could also make this out of existing card-like material, if you had any). Bear in mind that buying one might be a better idea as you could also get a matching, correctly-sized envelope.

Step 2, gather your materials. You'll need scissors, cello tape, scrap paper and other embellishments.  For this simple quilt I chose a selection of patterned designs that I clipped out of a used journal. Using a craft scissors, I cut the edges off the paper to create oblong-shaped pieces.

Step 3, arrange the pieces of scrap paper onto the quilt. I laid out the pieces in an overlapping design on the front page of the card.

Step 4, secure the scrap paper onto the card. There could be many ways of doing this but I tend to find that the good old cellophane tape method works best. Cover the entire card with strips of cellophane and trip the edges, folding any excess into the card to create a smooth finish around the edges.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

How to decorate christmas gift bags

Yes, it's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, again! Christmas 2014.

Do you have a large group of people you'd like to give something to for Christmas, but you can't think of what to give exactly? 

It could be a group of colleagues, friends, your kid’s classmates, family members or just about anyone. You’d like something a little personalised, but at the same time, not too difficult to make – since Christmas is such a busy time! J

I have just the solution for you – how about small plain or patterned gift bags (these can be bought at a store for very little in terms of cash outlay) which you can decorate with handmade Christmas-themed motifs before filling them up with sweets, chocolates or other goodies?

These gift bags make for both personalised and homemade gifts, while at the same time, have the added benefit of being pretty easy to make and fill.

OK, so if you’re thinking about doing something like these next Christmas, tip no. 1 is to start gathering your supplies now itself. You'll need to save all cards, gift tags, wrappers, ribbons and other potential christmas craft materials and store them in a box or a folder.

Keep adding to the collection throughout the year, whenever you come across a piece of paper, fabric or other embellishment that fits with your design palette for the bags. Just about anything which is the right colour, can be worked into your design. 

The next step is to purchase the paper bags. (You could of course make your own, for an extra challenge!)J

For consistency, I'd suggest covering all the paper bags with the same wrapper. This not only makes the bags look great when placed to next to each other, but also serves to cover up any “not-so-pretty” pre-printed designs on the bag itself.

Once the basic cover is on, the rest of the d├ęcor for each bag is entirely up to you. For the examples below, I used a range of craft materials to decorate each bag with a unique design. All materials used were recycled from previous Christmas gifts, cards, ribbons and wrappers. Only the paper bags and the goodies stuffed inside, were store-bought.

Personalised gift bags can be used for other occasions too! See what designs you can come up with! J