Tag Archives: tutorial

Junk Mail Paper – Part One

I love it when you can take something completely useless that you would otherwise throw away and make it into something functional and beautiful!  One of those useless items is junk mail!  Usually it’s covered in print, so it doesn’t make good scrap paper, especially if it has personal information on it.  Then it’s straight to the shredder or rip it up before tossing it.  You COULD give it to your little ones and let them have fun scrunching it and tearing it up, but that’s about all it’s good for, right?  Well….. I’m going to show you a few awesome things you can do with your unwanted mail.  This also includes any used scrap paper, old bills to be shredded, leftover homework, tissue paper that no longer looks pretty, toilet paper (unused!), paper towels (unused!), and almost any type of paper that you would otherwise throw away.  I’m going to do this as a series of posts, so this doesn’t get super long!

First off, we’re going to recycle that paper into new paper!  Already recycle your unwanted paper? Awesome!  Unfortunately, we don’t have recycling pick up services in our area, and recycling ANYTHING means hoarding big piles, lugging it to the recycle bins at the dump, and waiting in line since everyone seems to do it on the weekends! So, to be honest, we don’t recycle as much as we used to since living here.

Junk Mail Paper - Part 1 of a series.  Paper making and other ways to recycle junk mail!
Have you ever seen that pretty homemade paper that looks like linen?  Or has colorful thread or dried flowers in it? Or maybe you received a wedding invitation on plantable paper with seeds in it?  Most of the time what you’re looking at is homemade paper.  And what is homemade paper?  It’s just the process of recycling old paper!  And that’s what I’m going to show you how to do.

Don’t get overwhelmed by this.  It is very easy.  Once you have all of your tools and supplies assembled, it’s really easy to pull them out each time you want to make paper.

First of all, you will need a mold and deckle.  Huh? What’s that?  For your benefit, I’ve included a glossary of terms at the very end of this post. Go check it out.  I’ll still be here! You can purchase a mold and deckle kit at most craft stores.  However, I’m going to show you how to make one for a fraction of the cost.  If you would rather buy one,  skip down 3 pictures, and start reading where it says, The Supplies.

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The Supplies
1.
two empty wooden frames – one bigger than the other (check your thrift stores and yard sales!) I recommend small frames for beginners and then working up to a full size sheet of paper.
2.
window screen
3.
hammer and short nails or a staple gun
4.
scissors

The Directions
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Place the window screen on top of the larger frame.  Nail it down or staple it while pulling the screen tight in all directions.
You can see in my picture that this frame once had a screen on it.  It got a lot of use and wasn’t as tight as I wanted, so I put a new screen on.

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Using a scissors, cut the window screen around the frame.  You now have a mold!  Easy right?  Put the mold and deckle (smaller frame) off to the side while we get our paper making supplies together.

The Supplies
1.
paper to be recycled
2.
a plastic tub that is wider and longer than your mold and deckle and preferably has a lid
3.
large spoon
4.
a blender
5.
heavy towels (like bath towels)
6.
several thick sponges
7.
several pieces of white felt
8.
water
9.
heavy books or equivalent (optional)
10.
a paper shredder (optional)
11.
an iron and ironing board (optional)
12. wire kitchen sieve (optional)
13. Ziploc bags or similar (optional)

The Directions
I recommend doing this outside. You can do it inside. Just pick a place that has water friendly surfaces.

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If you have a paper shredder, awesome! If not, you can tear your paper into small pieces.  I would try to stay away from really thick paper especially if it has shiny print.  Remove the plastic from envelope windows. Magazines and newspaper are ok!  The mix of paper you use will determine what your new paper will be like.  You can mix different kinds to get different thicknesses and textures.  What I’m going to show you is the SIMPLEST form of paper making.  There are so many fun ways you can do this and things you can add to your vat or mold.  Let’s keep it simple for now.

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Fill your tub with warm to hot water.  A lot of people skip this step and go straight to the blender.  Trust me, it’s worth it.  Your blender won’t have to work so hard and you’ll get smoother pulp.  Add your shredded paper. This is an awesome kid activity!  M did a lot of this himself.  Obviously, children should not use a paper shredder, and young children should not use a blender.

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So I’m going to stray one step from simple, but it’s still easy.  One of the easy ways to color your paper is to add a little bit of shredded, colored tissue paper.  This batch will produce lime green paper.  I have a lot of junk mail envelopes with the blue security print in this batch.  Basic color mixing: blue + yellow (tissue paper) = green. If you use white printer paper with a lot of black print on it, your paper will usually result in an off white color (linen).  Just like most things that are wet, your pulp will be a lot darker in color than what your finished dry paper will be. Use a large spoon to push all of the paper under the water.  You can definitely use your hands if your water isn’t too hot.  M loved this!  The paper will stick all over you though.  Let the paper shreds soak in the hot water until they are soft.  This only takes minutes for regular printer paper. Thicker paper will take longer.

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This batch will come out gray and will be featured in other parts of this paper making series.

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Scoop your softened paper into the blender.  M’s open mouth expression.. “Ohhh, cool!”

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Add some of the hot water.  There are no specifics to this.  You just need enough liquid to help puree the paper. You don’t need to add anything else.  The bonding materials in the original paper are enough to bond new sheets of paper. Blend it up. Yay for outdoor outlets! For beginners, I suggest blending it as smooth as you can.  Add more hot water as needed and stir it once in a while (while it’s off). If you’re worried about dulling your blades, use a separate blender just for paper making (again, check your thrift stores and yard sales). Keep the leftover water in the tub.

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I’m not going to lie to you.  The pulp is going to look pretty disgusting. Especially if you’re not using fun, bright colors. This is the gray batch again and will be in the pictures from here on out.

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Pour the pulp back into the tub.  Don’t worry if you have a few leftover shreds of unblended paper in there.  It will just add character to your new paper.  Just pour a little at a time.  You’re going to have to experiment with how much you need when you make your first piece of paper.  I always add more warm water at this point too.  It helps to have several inches of the water/pulp mixture in the tub.  You’re going to be sticking your hands in this, so warm verses cool water is a personal choice. Put a thick towel folded in half next to your tub.  Have your felt and sponges ready.

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Get your mold and deckle.  Put the deckle on the center of the screen on the mold.  Hold it by its sides so you’re pinching the 2 frames together. Try not to touch the screen.

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This next part might be hard to understand.  So if you have questions, please ask in the comments below.  While holding your mold and deckle, submerge your hands into the vat.  Gently swirl and stir the pulp to try to evenly distribute and suspend the fibers in the water.  Don’t create large waves. Now lift your hands out, and with the water moving, scoop the mold and deckle down to the bottom of the tub. In other words, start with the mold and deckle at a 90 degree angle with the deckle facing away from you.  Insert it into the water starting at the side of the tub closest to you, and using a scooping motion, move it to the bottom of the tub so it is flat again.  The goal is to get underneath as many of the fibers as you can.  Then gently stir the water again, moving your hands towards you and away from you.  Take the slightest pause in the middle of the tub and immediately, but gently, pull your mold and deckle straight up out of the water while keeping it level.  Whew! Did you get all of that?  Again, if you have questions, please ask!

It’s actually really easy!  That whole process only takes 5 – 10 seconds. If you can get your pulp evenly distributed, and pull straight up, you’ll have an even sheet of paper on your mold.  This is where you’ll need to decide if you should add or take away pulp to get the desired thickness of your paper.  The more paper you make from one vat, the more pulp you’ll need to add.

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Let the excess water drip off of the mold while you hold it over the tub.  You can tip it slightly to let water run off the corner.  While keeping it straight, lift the deckle straight up and off of the mold.  Put a piece of felt on top of your newly formed sheet of paper. If you’re making small paper, put it close to the edge so you can fold the felt on top of it in a later step. You can also turn your mold upside down and put it on felt that way.  The paper won’t fall off and will stick to the mold.  Put it on the towel.  The felt should be in between the towel and mold so the back of the mold is facing up.  Take your sponges and start sponging up excess water.  Squeeze them out periodically into your tub.  Switch to dry sponges and let the damp ones dry to speed up the process.

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Next is to couch the paper.  For beginners, the easiest way is to keep sponging and replacing the towel if needed until the mold pulls away leaving the paper on the felt.  If you have little patience like me, you can sponge it to a point where you can peel the paper off the mold.  This is a little bit risky.  The wet paper will easily tear and it might fall wrinkled onto your felt.

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Here is a fully couched paper.  See the wrinkles?  Oh well.  It’s also normal for some to stay behind on the edges of your mold.  This is especially true if your deckle wasn’t flush with your mold.  In this case, my nails were too long and prevented the deckle from completely touching the screen. Once you get the hang of it, you can really produce a lot of paper fast.

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All that’s left is the drying process!  You can let it dry naturally or do a few things to speed it up.  I like to fold my felt over the paper.  I can usually fit two pieces of paper per piece of felt.  If your paper is bigger, just place another sheet of felt over it.  With an iron on low – and I stress LOW! – you can  iron over the felt to dry more of the water. Craft felt sheets are synthetic and will toast if your iron is too hot.  Ask me how I know!

From here you can leave it in the felt to dry.  You can also stack the felt and put heavy books on top to help them dry flat.  Let me tell you, your paper will take days or even weeks to dry this way! So another option is to open up the felt, tip it over, and let them peel off onto a water safe surface to dry.  I like to use my ironing board, because once they are dry, I iron them flat (iron on low!).  This is similar to ironing sewing patterns if you’re a sewer.

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(This picture shows wet verses dry)
You could really speed up the drying process by using the iron directly on the wet paper.  This takes practice and skill.  At all costs you want to avoid actually ironing the paper, but instead press it with the iron (again on low!).  Trust me, your paper will crumble and stick to your iron if you at all rub the iron on it while it’s wet. Always leave a corner peeking out of the iron so you have something to grab onto to pull it off.  Your paper won’t evenly dry this way and you may end up with some scorch marks.  But it’s a good method for the brave and impatient!

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Experiment with different colors and textures.  Veer away from the simple and add embellishments to your paper!  You’ll have a nice pile of paper like this with natural deckle edges! Some of these have some yellow thread in them.

Now, don’t throw away your vat of pulp!! First of all, you can save it and make more paper with it in the future or mix it in with other vats.  Second of all, I’m going to show you some awesome things you can do with that pulp in other installments of this series. I’m also going to show you what you can do with your new paper.

To save your pulp, you can just cover it up, but only do this for the short-term.  Otherwise, pour the contents of your tub into a wire sieve.   Do this outside and NOT over your drain please.  The sieve will collect the pulp the same way the screen on the mold does.  You can use your fist to squeeze a lot of the water out.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Store your wet pulp in an airtight Ziploc bag or something similar.  So far, I’ve had batches of mine keep this way for 3 years and counting.  I just use what I need when I want it.

If you’re not already following me or subscribed by email, make sure you are so you are notified of other installments of this series!  You can find the email subscription link on the top right side of this page. And one more reminder: if you have questions about this project, PLEASE ask, and I will do my best to answer them.  Now start recycling your junk mail and I’ll meet you back here for Part 2!

Glossary of Terms
Mold and Deckle
– A 2 part frame used to make the paper.  The bottom part is the mold.  It is larger and has a screen on it.  The upper part is the deckle.  It determines the shape and size of the paper.
Pulp
– A mix of plant fibers and water.
Vat
– The container that holds the pulp from which the paper is produced.
Couch
– (pronounced “cooch”) The process of transferring a newly formed sheet of paper from the mold to felt.
Deckle Edge
– The natural, untrimmed edge formed on the paper by the deckle.

Remember, if you post about this project, please be sure to give me credit and link back to me or grab a button from the sidebar. Thanks!

Your opinions and thoughts mean a lot to me.  I would love for you to leave me a comment below.  Thanks for stopping by today!

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Filed under DIY - Do It Yourself, Free Tutorials, Kids' Crafts, Paper, Upcycled

DIY Wall Art – You Don’t Have to be an Artist!

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I came across this lovely project last year at Two Girls Being Crafty.  Of course, I had to make my own!  Now I get to share it with all of you!!

This is basically copying a really cool piece of art that World Market sells, but without needing to know how to paint!  Really, it’s like a kid’s project it’s so easy!

Here’s the one World Market sells.  Something you’d like to have hanging in your home?  Well, you can! And for a fraction of the cost!!

The Supplies

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1. acrylic paint in your choice of colors (I didn’t use all the paint pictured here)

2. 1 acrylic paint pen

3. canvas – you choose the size!

4. round sponge stenciling brushes in different sizes and a large sponge brush (optional)

The Directions

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This first part is optional.  I used a large sponge brush to lightly paint over the entire canvas.  You could just leave it white.

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Using the acrylic paint pen, draw your branches.  They could be thick or thin, straight or not straight.  You really don’t need any talent here.  You’re just drawing lines.

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Dip your circle sponges into the paint and stamp your circles on.  Use more than one size circle for the same color, and let some of the circles dry a bit before you paint an overlapping one. I decided to use more vibrant colors than the original print.

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See, wasn’t that easy?  Just lines and circles – a kid could do it!

I love how I could paint this 100 times, and it would come out 100 different ways.  The options are endless!

Yes, I know there’s a big scratch at the bottom of mine.  That’s what happens when I leave it propped up on my always cluttered craft desk.  It’s still waiting for a permanent home.

Happy painting!

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Filed under DIY - Do It Yourself, Free Tutorials, Kids' Crafts, Wall Art

Wire Wrapped Ring – Free Tutorial

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How would you like to make this fun little ring?  It’s really not that hard.  You just need a few basic wire wrapping supplies, and a little bit of patience.  The picture above was a custom order that has sold.  So the tutorial pictures will have a different center bead.

The Supplies

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1.  A set of basic jewelry pliers – flat or needle nose (blue handles), round nose (purple handles), and side cutters (pink handles)
2. 24 gauge round jewelry or craft wire any color
3. 20 gauge round jewelry or craft wire any color
4. 1 or more beads of your choice with a minimum of a 24 gauge opening
5.  a ring mandrel

Tips Before We Get Started
1. 
Know your ring size.  You can find out by taking a ring that already fits you and sliding it on the mandrel to find its size.  Or wrap a piece of string or ribbon around your finger – not too tight – and cut it where it meets the end.  Now wrap the string around the mandrel to find your size.
2. There are many brands of craft wire out there.  Pick one whose price matches your skill level – especially if you’re a beginner.  When you first start wire wrapping, you’ll end up scrapping a lot of wire through trial and error.  So don’t buy the 14k gold plated wire if you’re a beginner!  My favorite brand is Artistic Wire.
3. Choose a bead that will lay comfortably on your finger. Don’t pick a large bead.  This will force the ring up to or on your knuckle.  You don’t have to limit it to one bead.  Pick 2 or 3 smaller beads that complement one another.
4. The pliers in the picture are basic, inexpensive tools.  They work great for the occasional use, but long term they don’t hold up.  They are very inexpensive, and the color coded handles really do help.  I recommend professional pliers for ones that will see a lot of love!
5. If you’re a beginner, you may want to wear safety goggles.

Go here to find out how you can save on your jewelry making supplies.

Let’s get started!!

(click on pictures to make them larger)

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Start with your 20 gauge wire. Unwrap it from the spool by pulling it straight out.  Don’t pull it over the top so it comes off like a spring.  It’s easier to kink your wire if you do.
Find your ring size on the mandrel.  Leave a tail of a couple of inches, and start wrapping the wire around the mandrel.  Refer to the picture.  The wire should pass over the top of the mandrel four times.  The middle two wraps should hug your ring size.  In the case of this picture, I am a size 7.
Leave a tail going in the opposite direction of the first one.  Using your side cutters, cut it at a few inches.

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Carefully slide it off the mandrel.
Cut a piece of 24 gauge wire at least 5 inches long – more for error.  Start wrapping it around the second loop of your ring, off-center to the right.  Start this by placing the wire behind the loop so that only a few inches are above the loop.  Then bend it forward over the loop.  Use your long nose pliers to help you wrap the short end around to the right.  Always grab your wire at the end – like shown in the picture.  If you grab it close to where you’re wrapping you will weaken the wire, and it may break.  Wrap a minimum of four times.

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If your wrapped loops of the 24 gauge wire don’t seem to want to fall in place, use your long nose pliers to gently squeeze each loop together as you wrap them.

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Once you have a minimum of 4 wrapped loops, use your side cutters to clip the excess wire.  Make sure the cutting side of the pliers is flush with the ring to ensure the closest cut.  Cut it on the top or side, not the bottom – you don’t want any sharp edges poking your finger when you’re wearing the ring!  As you’re cutting with one hand, grab the piece to be cut with your other hand or the long nose pliers.  This will keep flying metal from hitting your eye (ouch!) or landing somewhere never to be found again (except by a sneaky kid or pet – danger)!!!  And this is why I suggested that beginners use safety goggles :).  Use the needle nose pliers to squish down the sharp, newly cut end.

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All that futzing with your ring and it’s starting to look wonky??  No problem.  Stick it back on the mandrel, and pull on the two tails to get in back in its ring form.  Easy peasy! Do this as often as you need to throughout the project.

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Now string on your bead(s).  Put the ring on your finger or mandrel to figure out where to start wrapping on the other side.  You may need to gently push apart the two inner loops to make room for the bead.  DON’T push out the end loops.  Start wrapping the 24 gauge wire just like you did on the other side of the bead.  Use the needle nose pliers to help you, cut it with the side cutters, and squish in the cut side.

It’s starting to look like a ring, and you’re almost done!!

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Take the tails, and using counter pressure with your thumb, gently curve them until it looks something like the picture.

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Using the side cutters, cut the tails so they are at least long enough to be in line with the other side of the bead, while still in a curved position.  Watch out for flying wire!! You may cut them longer if you want bigger swirls on your ring.

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If you’re not familiar with using a round nose pliers, I suggest you practice this next step with a small piece of 20 gauge wire.
A couple things to know:

– The size of your twist/curl/swirl/loop depends on where you clamp your wire in the round nose pliers since it has graduated arms.  If you go closer to the tip, you will get smaller loops.  If you go closer to the handles, you will get larger loops.

– To ensure a perfectly round loop, always place your wire flush to the pliers.  You should be able to rub your finger on top of the closed arms and not feel the wire poking out.

– Before you twist your wire, twist your hand as much as you can either away from or toward you.  Away from you if you want to make your loop toward you and vise versa. If you start with your hand inline with your arm, you won’t have enough range to make a full loop.

Ok, now practice, and I’ll meet you at the next step!

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Now that you’re a pro with a round nose pliers, let’s finish the ring.  Yay!  Make loops on both tails of your ring using the skills you learned in the previous step.  They should curl toward the bead(s).  Refer to the first picture.

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It should look something like this.  We are going to curl in those loops.

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Take your needle nose pliers, and gently grab your loop as shown above.  Now turn it in towards itself.  Regrip as much as you need.  Just be gentle to avoid tool marks.

Put it back on your mandrel to round it out in case you squished it making your awesome curls.

Hey, guess what?!  You’re done!  Now show it off….

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My bead happens to look good flipped up or down.

Let me see your rings!  Comment below with a link to your picture.

Remember, if you post about this project, please be sure to give me credit and link back to me or grab a button from the sidebar. Thanks!

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Filed under DIY - Do It Yourself, Free Tutorials, Jewelry, Wire Wrapping