Down the Fountain Pen Rabbit Hole

Over the last year or so, my friend Cayden has been collecting fancy fountain pens, and teaching himself calligraphy.  It inspired me to dig my few pens out – I have 4 Parker pens that I’ve accumulated over the years, but I got out of the habit of using them.

And then, for my birthday, my friend Hannah got me one of these…


It’s not a fountain pen, it’s a dip pen.  Otherwise known as a nib holder – the nibs are removable and interchangeable.

Cayden set up my interest, and Hannah pushed me right over the edge.  Since then I’ve watched a whole bunch of YouTube channels, and spent a whole bunch of money on pens and ink samples, and special paper.  Even paraphernalia like ink syringes, and a bulb syringe to help cleaning, and sample bottles for when I get around to mixing inks and things.  I’ve become a little obsessed, but this is nothing new.  This is how I approach any new hobby.

Here is my collection as it stands today…


I have the four Parker pens I started with on the left, followed by the four pens from the Manuscript Calligraphy Compendium that Cayden gave me, followed by two Jinhao pens that I bought myself off eBay and then my nib holder.

I also have two bottles of ink – the ink that came with the set from Hannah, decanted into a glass tub, and a glass tub of Parker Quink Black, along with four samples of very pretty inks.


And then I have cartridges and converters too.  The Parker pens use proprietary cartridges so they’re in a separate bag.  My other pens all take the international standard.


I have records too, of course.  I have a notebook with sample writings and some durability tests of the different inks.  I have pages comparing all the inks of the same colour.  I have a folder of worksheets I’ve collected from the internet.

I may be a little obsessed.  But I’m having fun.  As ever, the collecting and the organising is as much a hobby for me as the craft itself is.  And I’m looking forward to getting more involved in the calligraphy and the lettering.  I’ve already been practicing.

These pieces were done using watercolour paint and the dip pen that Hannah got me.  The gradient takes a bit of work to get used to, but I’m really happy with the results.  Keep an eye out for more lettering pieces soon.

Random Experiment

So, I have these stamping inks…


…and in the post the other day I received these stencils that I’d ordered from eBay.


I had the random thought that the stamps could make a really pretty pattern if  used the whole stencil at once.  First I did some random stamping to test…


I wasn’t doing it in the best of conditions however, and it didn’t turn out too well…


I was doing it on my lap, not a particularly stable surface.  And the paper might not have been great.  More experimentation will occur.

Getting into Glass Etching

One of the crafts on my quite long list of crafts I want to try is glass etching.  And recently I got around to having a go.

There are various methods available, including an engraving pen – but some of them require a modicum of hand-control.  I’m not so good at that.  So I went with the relatively simple paste method.

I ordered myself a small bottle of Armour Etch Cream.  The method is very straightforward.  1) Apply stencil.  2) Apply cream.  3) Wait for one minute.  4) Wash off the cream.


I used a pane of glass from an old photo frame, and was very pleased by the results.  So more experimentation was due.  The Pokeball was made using a vinyl stencil from eBay, like this one:


I found a stencil I’d used before for something else and tested to see if it was okay to reuse a vinyl stencil…


Which it kinda is.  There’s a slight wonk to Pikachu’s tail, but you can barely notice it.  I suspect that stencils are certainly reusable as long as you’re better at reapplying them to the backing tape than I am.  Practice is needed there.

But surely there would/could be other ways of applying an image to the glass.   I tried taping down an old plastic purple stencil.but found that the paste seeped under the edges.


So I tried gluing the stencil down using Pritt Stick, but that didn’t really work either.


I did try using a thinner stencil, with Pritt Stick, and the results weren’t horrendous…


…but I decided that adhesive stencils were the way to go.

I tried using stickers which worked well.  The star on the left was made using the backing sticker from the star on the right.

Obviously using a sticker creates a silhouette, so I tried using masking tape to create a shape which worked great 🙂


I tried printing my own circle shape outline onto sticker printer paper, which was a success..


…and the letters was a fairly genius idea.

I did a bit more research into methods at this point.  A lot of people on YouTube had suggestions – like leaving the paste on a lot longer than the original instructions suggest, and different ways of applying the paste in the first place.

Time to move on to actual glasses!  Here’s where I discovered that the curved surface presented a whole new set of problems.  You need to pay proper attention when placing the stencil otherwise you’ll get creases and bubbles, which are never good.  You need to make sure your stencil lays completely flat in order to get a nice smooth shape.


You also need to make sure you have control of your paste – otherwise it will dribble over the edge of your stencil and/or tape and you’ll end up with little bits of etching where there isn’t supposed to be any.


After that I started taping off the rest of the glass, just to be safe.

Another thing I learned is to be careful about paste going into the glass itself.  I made this beautiful design…


See where I’d tucked the point of that top left star over the edge of the glass?  Well the paste got inside the glass and now there’s a little shadow on that star.


I didn’t etch the whole glass for that piece, mostly because it would have used up more paste than I had.  But I think the effect is still awesome.


My etching isn’t entirely consistent yet, but I kinda like that.  It makes it look handmade rather than machined.  Still, I know I’ll improve with practice, and that’s never a bad thing.

Random Craft Quiz

Remember way back in the early days of Facebook when quizzes and surveys were in every post?  I used to love answering them.  They’re still lurking on the internet, but they’re mostly found on Tumblr these days.  I found this one on Mostly Harmless Designs, and thought it would be perfect for this blog 🙂  It’s turned out to be very, very long though, so I’ll be posting it in several parts.


1) How did you first learn your craft?

I’ve been cross stitching longer than I can remember, knitting for 7 or 8 years, crocheting for 6 years.  Most of my other hobbies are picked up in the last couple of years.

2) How old were you when you first learned to craft?

I really don’t know.  I can’t remember being taught to cross stitch.  I’ve always been doing it.

3) What was the first project you completed?

Jeez… again, I have no idea.  I have been recording (nearly) all my craft projects on Ravelry since 2008 though – my username there is Switchcleo if you want to have a look – and the oldest project on there is these two graduation samplers I made for my best friend and for my sister in June 2008.  There are older projects, but none that I can recall.

4) What would you like to make next?

I’m currently really into bookbinding, and I’m working my way through all the techniques.

5) Do you use stitch markers?

Nope.  I should, but I prefer to count.

6) Do you watch or listen to anything while you craft?

I nearly always have a film or tv show playing while I work.  I watch far too much tv – most of it American stuff.

7) What aspect of your craft is the most challenging to you?

When I don’t pick things up easily.  I do a lot of different crafts, and there are lots more that I want to try.  When I pick things up quickly I become obsessed and do it constantly for weeks on end.  With some though, like polymer clay, I struggle at first.  After that I find it hard to make myself do it.  I WANT to do it, but I want to be good.  And I have so many crafts and not enough time, so the difficult craft tends to get ignored.

8) Which of your past projects are you the most proud of?

I’m proud of everything I make.  My rainbow crochet quilt is gorgeous, and my Hogwarts Hama bead logo is beautiful.

But I think I’m most proud of my mini aliens.  I learned this pattern years ago – when I asked my friend Cayden to find a simple pattern and feed it to me line by line as a mystery knit.  Since then I’ve made 180 of them.  They’re a little addictive.  They’re one of my best sellers too.  I sold 50 to a primary school teacher who used them as an incentive for the kids.  And when I sell one at a craft fair and the little kid walks away snuggling it, that really makes my day.


9) How long have you been crafting?

Well, I’m 34 now, and I can remember back to when I was about 8 or 9.  I learned to cross stitch before that, so at least 25 years.  Urk.  That’s a really long time.

10) Where do you usually buy your yarn?

There’s a store at the top of town that sells a bit of everything, and they have quite a wide range of yarn.  If I don’t know what I’m looking for, I’ll go there, but usually I’ll get it online from Deramores, or eBay

I’ll end part 1 here, but keep an eye out for more soon :-).

Desert Bus

In approximately 4 hours, an internet-based fundraiser called Desert Bus for Hope begins its 10th year.  I’ll let them explain it to you in detail, but the upshot is that for several days (the more money they raise, the longer they play) a bunch of volunteers play the world’s most boring computer game whilst simultaneously entertaining those with nerdish tendencies all over the world to raise money for a charity called Child’s Play.  The game in question is called Desert Bus, from an unreleased Sega game created by Penn & Teller where the player has to “drive a listing, unreliable, virtual bus on an endless, eight-hour-long strip of highway between Tucson, Arizona, and Las Vegas, Nevada.”

One of the things they do to entertain all the nerds during this week-ish long marathon is to auction off goodies they receive from donors.  In the last few years, some of those donors have been participants of the craft-along.  And this year, I am one of those people!!


At some as-yet-undetermined time during the Desert Bus 10 run, they will be running a silent auction with these wonderful Hama place mats that depict the various shift logos.


That much-better-than-I-could-take picture was taken by the Desert Bus team for the prize page.. they got the blue one upside down.  But still – how cool do they look?

Here are the other fabulous pictures they took:

The photography isn’t quite as good, but I did create some time-lapse gifs of me making them.

Here’s the yellow one – also known as Dawn Guard, who control the bus between 6am and noon.


Here’s the red one – also known as Alpha Flight (noon – 6pm).  (Spot the bonus kitty tail).


After I had this one just ready to iron I decided (with help from some friends) that the colour contrast wasn’t quite right, so I remade a bit and did some cutting and pasting.

Next up is Night Watch (6pm – midnight)


And finally Zeta Shift (midnight – 6pm).  I kinda forgot to take a lot of pictures of this one, sorry.


I’m really proud of these pieces, and hopefully they’ll raise a bit of money for a good cause.

Note: one of my good friends, Sam, also sent in some things.  This absolutely phenomenal Thorn Hand Cannon replica…


…and this beautiful Shift Banners Dice Tower that I will most certainly be bidding for.


You can see more of Sam’s astounding work at his website, Sam’s Skunkworks, and watch this space for a special guest post from him sometime soon.


Boldly Bookbinding

One of my favourite YouTube channels is SeaLemon.  She does various crafts, but the majority of her videos are bookbinding ones.  I imagine there are a bajillion bookbinding tutorials on the internet, but Jennifer makes hers clear and bright and easy to follow, and interesting.  She makes you want to try them.

I started with the easiest method – saddle stitch – a few months ago.  I’ve had notebooks for sale in my store for a while.  This method really is very simple – punch a couple of holes and sew a whole ten stitches.


But you can’t make very thick books that way.  I’m eager to try all the other techniques.

Last week I used up the last page in my sketchbook and I didn’t have another one, so I decided I’d test a new bookbinding technique and make one.  I picked coptic stitch…

…and got my paper and board all set up.  I got started and found the method relatively easy to pick up, but had a few problems.  I kept getting tangled, especially with the second column of stitches from the left.


And I found that using a straight needle for the stitches was absolutely insane, I kept having to open and close the book and got tangled and just very frustrated, so I put the project aside and ordered a set of curved needles from eBay.  When they arrived I found the whole process so much easier.  I finished off the book and was pleased with the way the rest of the stitches looked – even though I couldn’t find the same colour thread I’d started with.

Once I had the curved needle I found the stitch simple and soothing.  It was fun.  So much so that I made another notebook…

…and another one…


…and another one…


…and another one.


I ended up doing coptic stitch all day and completely ignoring everything else I was supposed to be doing.

I still have a lot to learn.  My books are definitely not perfect.  Like this one: I used some paper I had precut from an old project and used some craft card for the cover which was a wee bit too small.  I didn’t bother to cut the paper down because I was basically just practising the stitch.  I’m not too fussed about neatness.


Which is just as well.  All of my crafts have a certain wonkiness to them.  It’s almost a trademark now.

I have some loose bits inside the signatures too….


and my signatures aren’t always aligned properly…

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…but again, I’m not too fussed about a little wonkiness.  I enjoy coptic stitch.  It really is soothing.  I’ll work on my precision a bit more and maybe add something to the store in the future.  In the meantime, there are a whole bunch of other bookbinding techniques to try.

35,000 Origami Elephants

I’m subscribed to quite a few YouTube channels for various crafty things, and last week I got an email alerting me that EzOrigami had released a new video; a tutorial for an origami elephant.  I liked the look of the elephant at the start….

wewe I watched the video.

Before the tutorial Evan explains that he’s making the elephant for a campaign run by the 96 Elephants organisation.  Named after the 96 elephants a day that are killed in Africa, this organisation works to stop the ivory trade.  On their homepage is a petition you can sign that says…

We cannot be the generation that allows elephants to disappear.

I pledge to support measures aimed at combating the global ivory trade.

The origami campaign is an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the Largest Display of Origami Elephants.  The current record is 33,764.  96 Elephants are aiming for 35,000 – which is the number of African elephants killed each year for their ivory.

You can join this campaign and help by posting them some origami elephants.  That’s all you have to do.

I made these ones..

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I used the EzOrigami video, but you can make any style of elephant – as long as it is obviously recognisable as an elephant – then just post them off.

All the information is on this page here, including some templates for origami elephants if you don’t have one.

The deadline to receive the elephants is September 16th 2016, so get folding!