Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Soapstone carving with Efco's Hobby Set

I hope everyone enjoyed the bank holiday weekend... shame the weather wasn't up to much. Hey ho, at least you don't have to make up excuses for not doing the gardening when it's raining and can craft guilt-free! 

My Efco Engraving and Hobby Drill Set arrived - woohoo! - so I've been investigating all the different ends etc that came with it...

It comes in a handy little box and there's 3 ceramic tips for engraving cups and bowls etc, 2 diamond tips which are ideal for working with soapstone, a milling tip and HSS drill bit. The only down side (if you can call it that) is that because it comes from Germany you need an adapter plug for the UK.

So, as I had a broken piece of soapstone knocking about, I decided to have a little experiment so see what was possible. Firstly, I was worried that it might create too much dust, blowing it everywhere, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it made no more dust than when I use the rasps, chisels and files. 

I found that the milling tip created perfect holes through the piece making it possible to turn it into a pendant (the drill bit will probably do the same thing too although I haven't tried it yet). The diamond tips are great for creating 'polka dots' both small and large and I even tried a ceramic tip which not only could smooth off a rough edge but also create a shallow circular recess. 

So the verdict is... Efco's Engraving and Hobby Set is a wonderful addition to my other soapstone carving tools. :)

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Felting Links...

Rats! Another Monday missed! 

However, I do have extenuating circumstances...

Firstly, I had to pick up my niece from school on Friday as it was the end of exams and so they were allowed to leave school for the day. In view of the fact that she had her practice Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Expedition on the weekend I thought it would be rather heartless of me to leave her sitting in a classroom all day with others who still had exams to do, especially as she didn't have her rucksack packed! (I had a phonecall from her Sunday night and what a plaintive, sorrowful, tired voice it was too - I don't think there was a single part of her that didn't ache, poor love!) But that meant that Friday's work had to be done on Saturday instead, which has now become my start day for preparing my Monday blog.

Then, instead of finalising my blog post, Sunday afternoon was spent whiling away the hours sitting in Moorfield Eye Hospital's A&E waiting to have my eye checked out as my optician couldn't see me. Turns out my eye is aging as badly as the rest of me (lol) and I shouldn't be alarmed by massive floaters, flashes and lightening effects in my eye, so all's well there then. Already behind with my blog post, I could have done without the migraine that followed on the Monday! (Haven't had one of those in years and I sincerely hope it's years again if I ever have another one!)

As such I'm afraid I've had to give up on my post for this week but just wanted to log in here and show up (if only for myself) to make a promise that I will be posting again properly next Monday.

Until then here's a taster of what I had hoped to have finished before this blog post...

It's a needle felted iPad case using napkins as a design aid. I'm busy preparing some samples for a felting workshop I will be teaching for Franklin's of Colchester on Wednesday 18th June. The workshop will be a taster class showing crafters how to both needle felt and wet felt, so it should be a lot of fun!

In the meantime if you'd like to be inspired by felting artists check out the following pages (they're well worth a peek):

Julia Rossi, a textile artist from Argentina 

Elizabeth Armstrong, Studio Felter blog

Jane Herman and her Fabulous Felt's Blog

Jennifer Budd and her Woolscapes

Happy crafting!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Owl's that!

Well that didn't last long did it... all it took was one weekend of dealing with a teenager stressed out over exams to blow my renewed 'Monday is blog day' resolution out of the water! All is not lost though (she says hopefully, biting her lip) as, by the skin of my teeth, I may be one day late but at least that is better than not at all...well at least I hope you think so...

So, this weekend I decided (in between attempting a diabolical French accent to test my niece in preparation for her French oral exam on Monday - what a hoot that was!) to have a go at making Dhondt Hobby Products' felt owl using Efco's foam because it comes in such delicious colours. Instead of hanging a little notebook underneath it as in their Facebook post (pictured below) I decided to create an owl nameplate for Violet's nursery. Her mum loves owls and already has some dotted around little Violet's room so it will be a present for both of them.

So here's the original post from their Facebook page...


And here's how I created my foam version...

Use a hot glue gun to stick an old CD or DVD face down onto a piece of foam. 

Then use another old CD/DVD as a guide to cut around the top of the head and ears.

Use the same CD/DVD to cut around the rest of the ears either side.

Then carefully cut around the rest of the stuck CD/DVD and remove the excess foam.

Again, using the spare CD/DVD cut around half of it on another piece of foam. Use a glass or small pudding dish to cut around the bottom of the head/eye section.

Use the CD/DVD to help cut out two wings.

I used an Efco microbead pot (upside down so that I was cutting around the lid) as a guide to cut two eyes from white glitter foam.

I then used the same Efco microbead pot (this time right way up) as a guide to cut two black pupils.

All that's left is a small diamond or triangle shape for the beak and you should have all the components needed for your owl. All you need to do then is glue them all together using a glue gun.

And here's the finished little owl. It has a small piece of thin ribbon stuck to the back of the CD so that it can be hung up.
It was at this point that I discovered that Jackie's favourite colour is green....rats!....so foam owl mark II was born...

I used a Spellbinders die to cut the mint green foam for the nameplate which I then cut in half. The little letters are from Efco's Efcolor enamelling range which I enamelled with mauve powder and stuck on with metal glue. I cut out two little legs which I ended up sticking to the front of the nameplate. Luckily, I hadn't stuck the foam body to the CD right up to the edge at the bottom and so was able to sandwich the tops of the legs between the foam body and the CD.

Naturally, my niece Aoife (for those of you who aren't Irish you pronounce it 'ee-fa') fell in love with the cute little thing so I ended up having to make one for her too... this time with a notepad so it would be useful for her at boarding school. I used two short pieces of ribbon stuck to the back of the CD and a couple of large jump rings to attach the notepad to the bottom. I must confess that the ear decoration is all Aoife....

You might think that that was the end of that... but no... Sunday evening when I took Aoife back to school one of her best friends who she shares a room with fell in love with the little owl (now christened Toby, I think)... and so a twin was born...

Yet again, you might think that that is where my owl journey ends but no... I now have owls on the brain...and so when I turn out the lights at night little tiny owls, or rather great big huge felt ones flap through my dreams! They get me thinking what if I used Efco's 3mm thick felt as a base... how big could I go?

So, using a dinner plate instead of a CD, a saucer to help cut out the head/eye section and a dessert pot to cut out the eyes and pupils... big bird was born.

I used a glue gun to stick him together but when it came to the wings I made a point of only gluing around the outside edge and bottom tip of the wings. That way they act as pockets where you can tuck photos. :)

And so my owl journey has come to an end... almost... Now I think I may just have to see if I can go even bigger... this time going back to Efco's large foam sheets which, like the felt are 3mm thick and are almost A2 size (4 x A4 standard printer paper for those that aren't familiar with the size). I think that if I use a cake board instead of a dinner plate I should be able to get REALLY big! And if I stick the cake board to the back of the body it could be used as a pinboard....hmmm.... I'll let you know how I get on if I give it a go. Lol!

Happy Crafting.... 

Monday, 5 May 2014

Have you ever tried soapstone carving?

Well, who'd have thought it... one week later and here I am blogging again. (I think I might have to lie down from the shock! lol)

I hope everyone has enjoyed the Bank Holiday weekend (at least here in the UK)...we've certainly had some extraordinarily lovely weather for it (blue skies and sunshine with no rain, hail, storms or hurricanes - makes a nice change don't you think).

I suppose with all this sun most folks have been busy outside in their gardens but I bet none of you have been soapstone carving! This is a new craft to me and I've been pleasantly surprised by how much fun it is...and how therapeutic, almost meditative, it is too. And what's even better is that you can do it anywhere, even outside in the garden on a sunny day - what could be better! (I definitely can't do my Efcolor enamelling outside if there's even a hint of a draft because otherwise I end up getting powder everywhere other than on the blank!) 

So I thought I'd share with you my 'experiments in soapstone'...

This was my first attempt which was supposed to be one pendant but unfortunately it broke so it has now become two pendants - two for the price of one as it were. So, first lesson learned... don't try and carve soapstone too thin as, being a soft stone, it will easily break.

My second project was this simple butterfly using one of Efco's pre-drilled pieces of soapstone as a starting point. (It started life as a bee but ended up a butterfly...isn't nature amazing!)

Then I planned to make a shaped soapstone piece which I could combine with some of Efco's coloured wires for a pendant but I ended up loving the super smooth texture of it so much that I've decided that it's a gratitude stone instead. I just can't stop picking it up and handling it so it makes the perfect reminder to be grateful for all the crafting opportunities my job offers me. :)

Next I decided to see if I could do a relief carving on an Efco Soapstone Tea Light Holder... I think my elephant's trunk is a little too long and again I tried to go for a little too much detail and ended up chopping off the poor little thing's tusk (at least the poachers won't get him) but other than that I'm quite pleased with how he turned out.

Being a keen rubber stamper I thought I'd have a go at creating a Chinese seal which I hope I can use as a kind of stamp...I haven't tested it out yet, but here's hoping it works. (By the way the Chinese calligraphy is supposed to say Peace...not being fluent in Chinese I can only hope Google's got it right!)

Next I decided to have a go at some of Efco's pre-cut roughly shaped soapstone hearts as, having got a bit of a feel for the carving aspect, I thought I should tackle a 'How-to' project sheet for anyone else who fancies having a go. The first one I decided to leave just as it was because the stone has flecks in it making it rather beautiful in it's own right. The second one I thought I'd make as a memento for friends that are expecting their first baby. (Violet was due yesterday but, as with many first babes, appears to be somewhat reluctant to make her debut... hence why there's no date on it as yet.)

Having gained a lot of confidence I then decided to tackle something a little more intricate...again it evolved as I worked. To be honest I wasn't exactly sure what it was going to be initially but as I did the rough carving the flower and leaves announced themselves and with some more detailed filing they blossomed. I think this is probably as fine as you can get with soapstone as any finer and bits will start to crack and break off.

This is my next project...an owl. I so loved creating my needle-felted owls that I thought it would be rather nice to add to them with a soapstone owl. Fortunately Efco do a roughly carved owl soapstone piece to get you started so I feel I'm half way there without even taking a rasp, chisel or diamond file to it! With this great start I'm sure I can't go wrong...here's hoping anyway.

If these have got you at all curious about soapstone carving then check out Ideal World's Create and Craft channel next Saturday (10th May 2014) at 3pm as I will be demonstrating all the simple techniques to create unique soapstone carvings and jewellery elements. You never know, I may even have a date carved into Violet's soapstone heart by then. ;)

Hope to 'see' you there!

I've just heard that the show has had to be postponed until Monday 26th May 2014 at 2pm due to a technical hitch... sorry! (Frustrating as I was looking forward to it, but then again, more time to play with soapstone :) so not all bad!)