Friday, January 25, 2008

Robert Burns Day

January 25 is the birthday of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. To celebrate the day, I wrote out one of his poems. Although I now do most of my writing on the computer, it is still satisfying to put pen (or marker) to paper. I placed these guidelines under the paper to make it easier to write in straight lines.

When I did calligraphy making leaf borders was something I enjoyed. I first learned how in Writing & Illuminating & Writing by Edward Johnston. Here are some modified directions:

Friday, January 18, 2008

Woven Newspaper Vase

After I started forcing forsythia in a jar (see previous post), I decided I need something a more attractive container to put the jar in.

Because it didn't need to hold water, I thought about doing some kind of weaving with plastic bags. Even if I carry totes to the grocery store or ask for paper bags (I reuse them in book projects), I still find that plastic bags collect. And we subscribe to the New York Times (we haven't been able to give up on the pleasure of reading an actual newspaper) which is delivered in blue plastic bag. After I finished a half-gallon container of soy milk I had an inspiration. I covered the soy milk container with a page of the Times and used the blue plastic bags for the weaving. The vase took about 45 minutes to make and was done in three parts: preparing the soy milk container, preparing the bags for weaving, and the weaving.

To make your own, you'll need:
a paper milk carton (I used a half-gallon size)
a piece of newspaper
several plastic bags
white glue

Cut the top off the a paper milk carton.

Cut a piece of newspaper so that it will wrap around and cover the sides of the container with some extra at the top and bottom.

Put white glue on all the sides of the container and then smooth it with your finger so that you have an even coat of glue covering the container.

Wrap the container with the newspaper and smooth it down to help the glue adhere.

Put glue where needed on the newspaper to cover the bottom as you would wrap a package.

Put glue on the paper extending over the top and fold it down over the edges.

Cut down the side edges of the container so that you have a base and four separate sides.

Cut each side into strips. The total number of strips needs to be an odd number. I cut three sides into eight strips and one into nine. Since I didn't want to calculate or measure, I cut each side in half, then the half in half again to make quarters and the quarters in half to make eighths, and one quarter into thirds for the side with 9.


Cut several bags into strips about 1-inch wide horizontally across the bag. You will have a series of large loops.

Put one loop inside of another.

Pull the top of the inserted loop around the first loop and into itself.

Pull evenly to make it tight.

Continue attaching to loops to make a plastic thread for weaving.

Loop one end of the plastic thread around one of the corner strips at the bottom.

The plastic bag thread around the container strips is woven in an over/under pattern. When you looped the bag end over the first strip, you create an over. You'll go under the second strip with both layers of the plastic bag and continue on.

Continue weaving until the vase is complete. It's helpful to push down the plastic thread occasional to keep the weaving fairly tight. Attach additional loops to the plastic bag thread if you need to. You'll find you get into a rhythm as you go but I found I needed to pay attention as I sometimes went over a strip I should have gone under or vice versa. When I was finished weaving, I opened the loop so I had two separate pieces and tied them together on the inside of the vase.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Forcing Forsythia

The vibrant yellow forsythia, which blooms here at the end of the April, is always a sign of spring. In January, I like to bring some branches inside and watch them slowly bloom.

Cut stems on a diagonal.

Pound the ends with a hammer or a rock. This will help the woody stems absorb water. I covered an old catalog with a plastic bag to protect the table.

Place in a jar of water or a vase. I don't always do it but it's a good idea to change the water every week to keep it fresh.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tea Light Snowflakes

The new year is always a time of beginnings and resolutions. I have been becoming increasingly aware of the impact we have on the environment and the amount of waste we generate. In 2007 I began to use recycled materials almost exclusively in the bookmaking workshops I teach in schools and libraries. Since I have become more aware of the creative uses for things that were headed for the trash or the recycling bin, I find myself looking at things with fresh eyes to see what else they can become. In 2008 I am extending my creative use of household waste in new directions.

When I went to replace the burnt candles on the Christmas mantle, I was struck by a discouraging thought. These candles are wasteful. For that little bit of wax, I have a small metal container to dispose of. Before I even had a chance to see if they would be able to go in our recycling bin, I had an inspiration. Snow has been on my mind as of late as we have had lots this winter. The metal containers would make wonderful snowflakes!

Because snowflakes are hexagonal, cut the sides into six equal parts. I find it easiest to use one pair of opposing dots to determine where to make the first two cuts. Then I just judge by eye to cut each half into thirds.
The next cuts you make will start to design your snowflake. Snip a triangle or other shape away from the edge of each of the six parts.
Continue snipping away shapes until you have a snowflake you like.

1. I do not recommend this as a project for children.
2. The edges of the snowflake are not particularly sharp, but the little bits of metal pieces can be. I did my snipping over a cardboard box so that the little pieces wouldn't go on the floor but a sweep or vacuum after is a good idea.
3. Because the metal is thin, it is easy to cut but not particularly sturdy so the finished snowflakes should be handled with care.

Because I spend much of time teaching and creating projects for making books with children, my first thought was to make a snowflake accordion book.You can find out how to make one on my Making Books with Children blog. Since I only wanted to make one book and I had lots more candles, I needed more ideas.

The vase has a cuttings from the red twig dogwood mixed in with pieris. The snowflakes are tucked in among the leaves. They could also be hung with wire.

The snowflake is on a purple square cut from a gift box on a square cut from a Lindt chocolate wrapper on a square of cardboard wrapped with a mesh bag that contained red potatoes. I attached the snowflake through all the layers with wire and a push pin at the end. It was a little tricky but I felt it would be more secure than if I had used glue.

The snowflakes were strung on thread and hung in the window.