Whilst the term ‘Sun Print’ can be used to describe various different ways of using the sun to either develop or fix a photograph-like image, this blog post is about the process more formally known as Cyanotype.
Cyanotype is the oldest non-silver photographic printing process and involves exposing a specially coated surface (in this case, paper) to the sun. By placing objects on top of the paper, the UV rays are partially or completely blocked in areas, leaving either a negative or positive image. Once the objects have been removed, the paper is quickly rinsed in water to ‘fix’ the image and prevent it being further affected by the sun.
In this step-by-step tutorial I will show you how to create a ‘negative’ image of a flower – this image is considered negative because once it has dried, the exposed areas of the paper will turn a vibrant Prussian blue whilst the areas covered by the flower (in this case a cosmos from my back yard – but you can use any flower you like) will remain various shades of pale blue to white.
You don’t have to limit yourself to making sun prints with flowers though, after the tutorial I will give you a few more ideas for objects to experiment with.
Have you ever had a very specific vision for something that you wanted to sew but couldn’t find the fabric? Or maybe you like to pick up a paintbrush from time to time or carve your own printing blocks or doodle on your ipad but aren’t sure where to take it next? If any of these apply to you I would strongly encourage you to give fabric design a try. Seeing your work take on new life as you create repeats and experiment with different colors is really rewarding and best of all, you get to make something cool with your fabric after!
I have wanted to create my own fabrics for the longest time but the fear of ‘The Gap’ (the gap between the idea in my head and what my current skill set allows me to produce) always held me back. This year though I have decided to quit over-thinking and just start making things again, prioritizing progress over perfection.
A couple of weeks ago I got my first set of samples in the mail from Spoonflower (a print on demand fabric company that allows you to upload and sell your own designs) and now my first finished design ‘Tammy Girl’ is out in the world!
Although I am no expert, I want to share some of the process behind this fabric design in case that helps give you some ideas to get started.
I knew I wanted this fabric to have a retro feel with florals inspired by the 1960’s, 70’s – and the 1990’s homages to those retro florals that we saw in brands like Bang on the Door in the UK and Delia’s in the US. I keep an ongoing scrapbook of patterns that catch my eye so I turned to my 1960’s and 1970’s fabric samples and began sketching out some flower shapes.
I started adding color to the flower shapes that I liked the best which helped me get a feel for which shapes belonged together and which didn’t. When I had narrowed it down to around 5 different styles of flower I re-drew those shapes in Copic marker and photographed them.
Using my ipad I traced over the flower shapes, saving each one as a separate PNG file with a transparent background. I then used a combination of procreate and photoshop to build the pattern repeat, layering the flower shapes over one another. I chose four different color palettes to begin with before uploading my final files to my Spoonflower fabric shop. I then ordered samples to check that the colors turned out the way I want them to and that there were no flaws in the repeat. Seeing my design come to life on fabric was awesome – now I just need to decide what to make with it!
Surface pattern design and printmaking is something I am looking forward to exploring more – I will share my progress and my finished work here from time to time but for more regular content you can find me daily on TikTok and Instagram. If you have any questions about anything I have spoken about here leave me a comment and I will do my best to help. Until next time!
Here’s a fun idea for a simple lino cutting project – perfect for welcoming a new four legged friend into your home. You’ll start by taking your cat or dog’s paw print and then transfer the print onto lino before carving away the negative space, leaving your pet’s unique signature! You’ll end up with a beautiful keepsake that you can frame – and a lino cut that you can use to make more prints, sign holiday greetings, print onto fabric and more.
I have included instructions for printing with real printing ink as this yields the best result but if you’re not quite ready to take the plunge just yet, you can print your lino cutting with the same ink pad that you’ll use to take the initial paw print (and could always re-visit the printing process at a later time when you’re ready).
Those who follow me on Instagram may know that we welcomed Finnbar to our family 9 weeks ago – as he’s a German Shepherd/Boxer mix I knew his delightfully small, puppy-sized paw wouldn’t last for long so I really wanted to capture it, in all it’s cuteness and so, this project was born. Im going to make another print in a years time and am looking forward to seeing how much he’s grown!
Not pictured here (well actually the first one is pictured, it just didn’t show up in the photo) printmaking paper (I use this one) and a smooth, flat surface for spreading your printing ink onto if using.
Step 1: Print
Start by taking your pets paw print, then washing it gently in soapy water to remove all the ink. Notice how there are some areas of the paw pads that haven’t transferred the ink so well and there are also a few tufty bits of hair in between – it’s these details that will give your finished print it’s unique characteristics!
Step 2: Draw
Carefully draw around the paw print, staying true to the shape of each pad to make sure the print is as accurate as can be. Then shade the areas that will appear solid and shade over any additional markings such as tufts of hair or claws.
Step 3: Transfer
Place your paper face down onto you lino and hold carefully in place while you rub the back of the paper firmly with the butt of your marker. When you remove the paper, your pencil marks should have transferred to the lino.
Step 4: Carve
Carve out your design using your tool of choice. If you’re new to lino carving it can take a moment to get into the right frame of mind as you have to remember that you’re ‘drawing’ with the lino that is left untouched, not the lino that you carve away. So for example, to make the little tufts of hair in the print below, I had to plan ahead and leave these delicate lines of lino untouched whilst carving away the surrounding areas, rather than making these marks on the lino with my carving tool. You can use the ink pad to take test prints at various stages of the carving process which will help to keep you on the right track and can be especially useful for making sure that you have carved out the background area sufficiently.
Step 6: Print
If you already own printing ink and equipment then you probably don’t need me to tell you how this is done but I will aim to break down the process here for anyone trying this for the first time.
You’ll take a little ink on your palette knife and spread it onto a smooth, flat surface. Work the ink back and forth with the palette knife to warm it up then take your brayer and roll it back and forth until it is evenly coated. Roll the brayer back and forth across your lino, varying the angle with each stroke to make sure that it is evenly coated. Place your paper on top and hold in place while you firmly rub the back of the paper with a wooden spoon. Peel the paper away and experience the thrill of seeing your design in print form for the first time!
Check out the quick video I made below to see the process from start to finish.
What do you think? Are you tempted to give this project a try? Let me know in the comments. If you try it I hope you’ll come and share the results over on Instagram (don’t forget to tag me!). And as always, if you need any help or words of encouragement along the way I am only a DM away.
We don’t know what 2021 has in store for us yet and it can be hard to find joy and a sense of optimism amid the uncertainty. The answer for me is to spend this part of the year planning the creative projects I want to pour my time into over the next twelve months. Perhaps for you it’s a list of books to read or maybe you’re planning home renovations, planting a garden or organizing your sock drawer. Creativity and growth takes many forms. One thing I have learnt over the years is that if I don’t make time for making then the days turn into weeks, weeks into months and before I know it years are slipping past and I still have the same pair of socks on my knitting needles.
Today I’m going to share a personal list of projects that I want to delve deeper into in 2021 – perhaps it will give you some ideas or inspire you to make your own, completely different list?
1. Getting back into knitting. Since moving to SoCal knitted jumpers are no longer pride of place in my wardrobe. Even on the coldest day it is too hot for wool so this most therapeutic of pastimes has slipped from my life. As all knitters know, the act of knitting is about so much more than the end product – getting lost in color and texture as we plan projects, the mind-clearing meditation of counting stitches as we work and the slow burning joy of bringing something into existence row by row. I need this kind of joy back in my life – perhaps I’ll knit cup holders, perhaps I’ll knit stuffed toys – I am just happy to be part of the knitting community again.
2. Lino cutting and print making – I have been dabbling in lino cutting and block printing fabric on and off for a couple of years but this year I want to re-wind a little and take some time to master the basics. I love the work of Emily Louise Howard (thediggingestgirl on insta) and am starting the year by working through her book Block Print Magic.
3. Sketching and pen and ink drawing – if you didn’t go to art school and therefore feel like you’re not allowed to pick up a pencil and start drawing (I’m sure I’m not alone in this?) then consider this your permission slip. Drawing is the gateway to so many art forms – to get yourself off to a good start I recommend investing in a set of drawing pencils, proper artists eraser and a sketchbook. Try sketching things around you by really looking at them – don’t fall into the trap of drawing how you think they should look. Keep your marks quite loose at first and hone the final shape gradually. Unhook from the idea of getting your drawings to look perfect (or even good) – the goal is to show up and try and fill up that sketchbook.
4. Watercolor painting – another technique that has been on my to-do list for ever. I’ve bought myself The Joy of Watercolor by Emma Block and am planning on working through it in the Spring once my mind is filled with sunshine and color again.
5. Last but not least, let’s not forget that to move forward we must discard the old baggage that is weighing us down. Releasing ourselves from old goals can be surprisingly hard to do – I’m going to take a moment this week to identify the things that are no longer serving me and then bid them adieu. Hanging in my utility room are a dozen or so bags containing half finished projects of mine from the last 10 years – I am going to go through them one by one and return most of them to their respective supply boxes or just straight up throw them out!
2021 may have plans for us but we can still have plans of our own – it’s never to late to start, or start again. Time spent creating is never a waste of time no matter what else the year brings. I’ll be rooting for you this year!
Well, I didn’t see that coming. We’re now in week 6 of lockdown here in California and the girls have adjusted to our new normal fairly well considering the parks and beaches here are closed and they are now confined to the house and back garden. During the first two weeks I felt this strange sense of optimism and enthusiasm for our new life at home and threw myself into homeschooling and planning all the craft projects I would now (surely?) get around to. I kind of knew at the back of my mind though that this was maybe a coping mechanism and perhaps not sustainable for the long term and sure enough, fast-forward to today and those positive vibes have evaporated, I suspect never to return. I don’t know about you but Im having to work a little bit harder just to do the basics. It’s the same feeling I used to get pre-children if I read too many gossip magazines in one sitting or stayed in my pyjamas until 3pm. There is an undercurrent of heaviness which runs through the days – and especially the evenings – at the moment.
During the early days of the lockdown I began a project which I had wanted to tackle for a long time but kind of accepted I would never get around to. This dolls house belonged to my younger sisters and I was beyond thrilled when they passed it on to my girls a few years ago. It is handmade and definitely not something you would find in a toy shop, with the odd jagged edge and surprise nail protruding. There are pencil marks and wobbly windows and it is just so imperfect and handmade, I absolutely love it. It looked as though it had undergone a restoration at some point prior to coming to us – as well as the original victorian style dollhouse-scale wallpaper there were a some 1990’s paint effects which had to go. Overall the dollshouse had been well loved and looked ready for a fresh start.
I have always been something of a hoarder when it comes to craft materials so in my previous life working for an Interior Design company in London I used to quite often save discontinued fabric and wallpaper sample books from the wheelie bin. Although I whittled down my collection quite a lot in preparation for our move to the US, I did bring some wallpapers by Harlequin and GP&J Baker along for inspiration. Although I’m not an Interior Designer myself, I am in my element surrounded by wallpaper and fabric and I really enjoyed the process of choosing which wallpapers to use, then choosing which sections to use for which walls and sometimes having to carefully cut and paste motifs to trick the eye into thinking that the larger prints run seamlessly from one wall to the other. Progress was fairly slow as each wall had a slightly different shape so I had to make a paper template first to check for fit before cutting the actual wallpaper.
I began with the bedrooms, choosing fairly conservative polka dot prints (lockdown living must surely have had a subconscious hand in my choice of a restful, neutral taupe for the master bedroom!). As I moved downstairs though I realised that, rather than choosing the small-scale prints most suitable for a dolls house, I could make good use of some of the larger scale prints that I truly loved, giving a more modern feel – like a giant wall mural!
The dolls house sits on top of a mid-century coffee table in the playroom and is visible from most angles of our main living space. Seeing these papered rooms makes me smile and I like to think of what future generations will make of my design choices. My next task is to repair the front of the dollshouse which broke off during our move and I’m planning one or two updates to the exterior – inspired partly by the painted surfaces in Charleston Farmhouse and partly by the Dorset farmhouses I was familiar with as a child. The dollhouse looks quite devoid of life when it’s not occupied by my old Sylvanian Families so I would like to add one or two hand-painted touches – a cat skulking along the side wall perhaps or a bird perched on top of the chimney.
I highly recommend dolls house tinkering as a quarentine activity (kids or no kids) – if you dont have one you could try Ebay or check out pinterest for cardboard dolls house ideas. However you spend these weeks I hope you stay safe and well.
This quick-to-make bow scrunchie is the perfect sewing project for using up fabric scraps or up-cycling a favourite garment that’s on it’s last legs. You could rock a different one every day of the week or make one to match all your favourite outfits. This DIY bow scrunchie also makes the perfect present – you could give them as holiday gifts for your entire class, make matching ones for your #girlsquad bachelourette party or use them as stocking fillers!
Winter where I live can be pretty brutal – grey skies day after day, freezing temperatures (but seldom snow to make it pretty), rain, going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark…
I can think of two things though that help make Winter better wherever you are – hot pyjamas straight off the radiator and going to bed with a hot water bottle! The pyjamas you can probably figure out for yourself but I’m excited to share my new and improved Quilted Hot Water Bottle Cover sewing tutorial today! Continue reading →
It’s been a while since I sewed a new garm so I’m excited to share some photos of my finished bomber jacket today! The pattern is, of course, the Rigel Bomber by Papercut Patterns – a simple, unlined bomber jacket with welt pockets. I chose a pink sweatshirt fabric (rather more lurid than these photos make it appear…) as I wanted something warm, comfy and easy to care for. Also, since it’s super cosy, fleece backed sweat-shirting, I thought it might be nice to see the contrast in texture on the inside of the jacket.
I learned a couple of things while working on this project. One thing, which is blindingly obvious in hindsight, is that (of course) if you choose to make details like ribbing, zips and welt pockets in a contrasting colour then any imperfections will stick out like a sore thumb. But if I stand at a jaunty angle like this then perhaps you won’t notice 😉 The other is that although this is a simple enough jacket pattern, jackets are inherently more difficult than dresses as they don’t look ‘pretty’ in-and-of themselves and don’t ‘spark joy’ in quite the same way. Also there are more straight lines and corners to match up so if something is slightly off then it’s harder to sort of ‘use the force’ and ease on down the road and lose the excess in the side seams (or wherever – hope it’s not just me that sews like this!).
I’m hoping this will be a good addition to my day to day getup, especially once the temperature drops a little more. I’m already planning a silk version for work but think I might try lining it this time – and maybe skip the pockets to save myself a whole load of time (and a little bit of heartache – my overlocker chewed up two side panels as I tried to make the inside of the pocket situation look neater). Thinking about the pockets just then made my heart feel all heavy and then it hit me – making jackets feels a lot more like ‘tailoring’ and a lot less like ‘dressmaking’ – more mathematical somehow with fewer nice, curved seams and pretty necklines. One thing I have realised though is that I desperately need to sew more every-day things so perhaps jackets are something I’ll come to enjoy more with practice?
One last thing (to do with my upside down feet). Long story short, my tripod is broken. I really wanted to show off these trainers which are by New Balance though as they just go so well with the jacket – what a coincidence 😉