Sunday, December 29, 2013

An art journal is what you make it

I’ve never been able to keep a daily diary. It’s too much pressure to keep up with a daily soul-pouring. And then when I miss a day? Oh, the guilt.

Instead, I keep travel journals, health notebooks, craft journals, sermon notes, and notebooks of knowledge. These books are a much better reflection of who I am.

Travel Journals

Craft Journals

I can see where I’ve been, what interested me, and what problems I was trying to solve. I even occasionally throw in a traditional diary entry.

I thought I needed to start an official art journal in 2014, but I’ve been art journaling all along. Turns out an art journal is whatever you want it to be. The only obstacle to starting an art journal is starting.

So, instead of choosing a new endeavor (which isn’t so new to me after all), I’m going to choose to start.

2014 is the year to Start.

What do I want to do with this year? Make more art and craft. Renovate my kitchen. Rip out carpet, plant a wildflower garden, and not worry about artificial deadlines. I guess it’s time to start a new notebook.

What do you want to start in 2014?

Thanks for 2013,


Monday, December 23, 2013

Make an 80–Page Sketchbook for 50 Cents

Instead of wrapping gifts, I did what I always do this time of year: I started a new project.

I couldn’t help myself. I had already planned to make my daughter a sketchbook using a 40–page sketch pad from Dollar Tree. $1 for a 9x12 sketchbook ! If you cut the pages in half, you get two sketchbooks. That’s 50 cents per sketchbook if you use junk you already have to make the cover.


This is one of those projects where I had a vague idea of what the finished project would be. Otherwise, I just tried stuff.

For the sketchbook cover, I wove together cardstock cut into half–inch strips. Just like in first–grade art class. The strips are offcuts that my daughter got for free from the local printer for an art installation. I glued the strips on the ends to secure each row.


My daughter hauls her sketchbooks everywhere, so I figured I needed to protect the woven ends from wear. I folded one of the half–inch strips in half the long way and glued it down over all four sides of the weaving after I trimmed the edges flush. It was like paper bias tape.


I used a fast–drying paper glue. No patience here.


I thought about doing a fancy stitch booklet, and then I came to my senses and chose a simple pamphlet stitch. Mere days before Christmas is no time to get fancy.

I cut each piece of paper in half along the long edge and then folded the block in half to make a signature of 80 pages total (40 folded in half). I’ll make another sketchbook with the second pile of paper.


I scored the woven cardstock at three points to make a trifold sketchbook. I then poked holes in the paper and sewed the signature block to the cover using silk embroidery ribbon. You use what you have when it’s late.


You can see the silk ribbon below on the spine. It fades from red to hot pink.


The pages were so thick that I had to trim all the pages flush.


I mulled a few closure ideas (hook and loop tape, snaps, etc…) before I simply sewed on a mother–of–pearl button on one side and waxed cord on the other side.


I finished the cover with a light coat of MicroGlaze rubbed into the paper. The glaze made the cardstock red richer and should waterproof the paper.

I finished the sketchbook in one day and watched several episodes of Grimm besides. I enjoyed every minute of the making.

This sketchbook is for my daughter. I have a pile of turquoise paper strips that I can turn into a 50–cent sketchbook for me too. But after Christmas. I started a t–shirt quilt last weekend too. You can’t deny the craftiness.

Are you frantically crafting too?



Saturday, December 14, 2013

Capturing History in the Letters

Last week, before the cold front hit, my husband took me down to Sixth Street in Amarillo for a photography date. Sixth Street is part of old Route 66, and the shops cater to antique hunters, hipsters, and bikers. It’s really a fun area in which to spend an afternoon.


We didn’t have time to poke into any antique shops, but we did stop for cafĂ© au lait (for me) and Earl Grey iced tea (for him) at the 806 Coffee Shop after I wandered the street looking for my letters. Letters on the old signage, that is. The older and grungier the better.



The “A” comes from The Nat. It’s antique store now, but it began as an open–air swimming pool in 1922 before evolving into a ballroom, which hosted the likes of Duke Ellington and the Dorsey Brothers.

I found the “I” on the Golden Light Cafe. The owner claims it is “the oldest restaurant in Amarillo and perhaps the oldest restaurant continuously operating in the same location anywhere on old Route 66.”


I cropped my letters tightly, removed unsightly poles and wires with the Photoshop cloning tool, and placed the letters on a 20x16–in. grid. Why 20x16? Because I knew I could print a poster in that size and find a poster frame locally.

My chosen letters: AMARILLO.

letters from Sixth Street Final JPG

The result is an art piece I’m going to give my mother–in–law for Christmas. I used a handwriting true–type font to add “Letters from Sixth Street” along the bottom.


The 20x16 print cost about $12 using the photo kiosk at Wal–Mart. The frame is from Joann’s.

I like the result so much that I’m going to get another print made for me and my husband to hang in our stairwell.

I’d like to go to my kids’ universities and find letters that spell out their names. It’d make a great graduation present.

I had great fun re–exploring one of Amarillo’s treasures. I could have also gone down to the Cadillac Ranch and found letters in the graffitied cars, wandered Polk Street, hit the Big Texan for the 72–oz steak, or walked the grounds of Amarillo College. Hubby and I may need to make another date with our camera.

Anyway, from start to finish, this project took about three days. Plenty of time to get out your camera and capture the highlights of your town before Christmas.



Thursday, December 5, 2013

Quick and Crafty Kid Gift: Dye Playsilks with Food Coloring

This Christmas, I’m giving my nieces and nephew princess dresses.

SC Princess

Superhero capes.

SC Cape

Ponds with fish…

SC Fish in the pond

and fire?!?

SC Fire dog

Actually, I made them play silks. They’re large squares of silk dyed in bright colors that help kids use their imaginations. They’re so quick and easy to dye with paste food coloring and unsweetened drink mix (like Kool–Aid). Silk takes up color with the assistance of acid. A few glugs of vinegar in a hot dye bath of food coloring does the trick. Unsweetened Kool-Aid comes with its own acid in the form of citric acid. Even egg dye and vinegar works to permanently color silk.

No need to relegate the pots to craft use only after dyeing because everything but the silk is edible. I simply simmered some water in a large pot, stirred in enough food coloring to make a strong color, added a glug or two of vinegar, and threw in the wet silk. When the silk color was dark enough, I pulled out the silk and rinsed, rinsed, rinsed out the excess dye. Scientific, no?

My results:

Blue food coloring is great. I’ve had trouble with purple food coloring breaking toward blue, but I understand grape drink mix stays true. I dyed my square blue and then overdyed it pink to get a good purple. Red food coloring came out a sickly rose, so I used four packets of fruit punch to get the orangey red. Pink food coloring is awesome. It’s a perfect pink. I had to add a lot of yellow to the green food coloring because it came out more turquoise the first attempt. The yellow food coloring set better when I nuked the wet scarf in the microwave for a minute. Lemon–lime drink mix did not set even with added vinegar.

I gave the box of silks to the kids at Thanksgiving because we aren’t spending Christmas together. They became princesses, pirates, and superheroes within minutes. Suzy was happy to pass on the silks to the kids.


It’s not too late to keep on crafting! I still have a few projects in progress.