Thursday, 8 May 2014

Papercut playing

Back in February I mentioned that I bought Emily Hogarth's wonderful book on papercutting. I've had it for a while now, and though I've been determined to try my hand at papercutting since I got it, I'd just never really made the time! Well, over the last couple of weeks  I've deliberately sat with my sketchbook and tried to come up with some papercutting ideas. I've always quite liked working with silhouettes, but trying to put together lots of elements in a way that would cut easily wasn't as straightforward as I'd thought! Still it's been a learning process, and I've certainly had fun with it.

The first sketch that I liked the look of was one of an Irish setter, which I thought would make a lovely Christmas present (I know, I know, it's May and I mentioned the 'C' word!) for my in-laws. I did a quick tester to get used to using the knife and scissor combo, and to see how my sketches would translate before working up a more complex version on nicer paper.
Tester cut - simplified design but loving the effect!
Added some complexity and fancier paper - I think it looks almost classy!
Next I decided to go for something a bit more complex based on a few cat and plant sketches I'd worked up from my sketchbook. As usual I dived straight in at the deep end rather than giving myself time to get used to a new technique, but after a bit of time and maybe some cursing, I managed to finish my 'wild cat' papercut as well.

Original sketch on the right - cutting in progress on the reverse on the left 
Completed grumpy cat! I like his attitude
I'm very pleased with how they turned out overall, though they certainly do require a lot of patience. The drawing and designing is definitely the more fun part for me, the cutting not so much - though you can get into sort of a cutting zone when you are working. Eternal vigilance is essential though, as one slip of the blade and you suddenly have a three-legged cat or something (I may be speaking from experience here). Now just to carefully glue them down onto the backing paper and get them ready to frame.

Lessons were certainly learned in this foray into a new craft.The main lesson I learned, even though it was made very clear in the book, was that I need a very sharp cutting blade. I just picked up my nearest craft knife to have a go at the first dog attempt (goodness knows how long that blade has been in the knife), and it did made things difficult and resulted in a few rips. Oh and of course a self-healing cutting mat is ESSENTIAL. Still, I wanted to at least see if I enjoyed the process and the results before trying some fresh blades, and boy does it make a big difference! 

Have you tried papercutting before, and how do you like it? I'd love to hear from you if you have any top tips to share!

Jules

Friday, 2 May 2014

Blocking the wolfman

Unfinished projects, UFO's, WIPs - whatever you want to call them, we all have them don't we? For me, I usually manage to complete the actual stitching part of the project without problems - it's the finishing of the project that usually stumps me, at least for a while. I think for me it's that I've poured out my creativity into the stitching, and the thought of preparing that piece to go in a hoop or a frame or as part of a cushion etc., for some reason just doesn't seem to be as exciting. It's a poor excuse, but there you go!

For finishing some pieces, I must admit that there is an element of fear involved. My biggest and favourite piece of embroidery, my wolfman, is currently languishing in that unfinished pile. I really want to finish this piece and frame it, but since I completed it last year I've been afraid of well...ruining it if I'm honest! However, I was determined to finally get this piece finished and displayed on my wall. The timing seemed perfect, as right about when I made the decision to finally complete this piece, what should appear but an excellent tutorial on 'Blocking your embroidery' with Jessica from Paperstitch on the excellent '& Stitches' blog. If you haven't seen this post, it's definitely worth a read, and inspired me to fight my fear and have a go!
Before picture - pretty wrinkly huh? Let's see what we can do about that
I used an old cork board which luckily I had hanging around. It took almost all of my available pins, but I duly pinned out the piece and misted it with water with my handy water spray that I often use for ironing. After this I put the piece away on a flat surface and tried to stop checking it every five minutes! I actually repeated the process too. Once dry, I took out each pin a line at a time, tightened the piece and sprayed it again to try and maximise the results.
So...many...pins!...
Ah handy little water spray from a 99p shop!
Results
Well, I don't think it got out every wrinkle, but it certainly looks better than it did before. It's those tricky little bits between the different sections of embroidery which seem difficult to entirely erase! Still, at least I feel that I have more confidence in this method than I have before! 
The After picture - looking much better!

Next steps

Lacing and framing! Both scary steps that I haven't tried before, but doing the blocking has given me a shove to get this piece completed. How about you? How do you finish your pieces? Hoop, frame, or something else? Have you blocked, laced and framed, and if so, do you have any top tips?

 

There has recently been some great discussion on this very topic "Finishing a piece… what's your favourite method?" over on Weave. What's Weave? Well, if you love cross stitch, hand embroidery, machine embroidery or the like, you'd do well to get yourself signed up for Weave, a wonderful new online social network for us crazy stitchers started by Mr X Stitch. You can find it by following the link here.  I'm on there as The Awkward Niche, and would love to see you there!


Jules