Whoa, Those Are Shrinky Dinks?

That’s what I said at the last Bazaar Bizarre when I saw these earrings by Heidi of Passionflower. She uses a mix of found printed materials and original artwork to make these.  One of the things that makes her work so unique (and not resemble shrink plastic in the slightest) is her sparing use of color and the way she mixes various materials into one piece.

Then I started noticing shrink plastic everywhere.  Apparently lots of crafters are making really useful, grown-up things out of one of our favorite childhood toys.  For example, I think these stitch markers from Karrie at Girl On the Rocks are ingenious.  I especially love the ones that remind you how to do the kitchener stitch as you go.

I also really like the way Erin of Broken Fingers uses shrink film to turn her graphic designs into wearable art.  She draws these by hand.  Yeesh.

Some crafters make really compelling jewelry just by creatively cutting and punching solid-colored sheets like these pieces by Crafic.

Other ingenious projects? You can make custom buttons with shrink film, perfect for when you can’t find the right button you need to finish a project.  Susan Beal at Craft Stylish has a nice tutorial on this. She also has another useful tutorial for making pet ID tags.

“Okay,” you say, “I’m convinced.”  How do I get started with shrink film myself?  Well, first you have to know that your options have greatly increased since we were kids.  Regular shrink film now comes in clear, white, brown and black, which you can draw on with colored pencils or Sharpie-type markers.  If you go the Sharpie route, I recommend protecting your pieces with a spray or brush-on sealant because it tends to scratch off.

BUT, there’s also inkjet-printable shrink film now, which means you can create complex pieces really fast and in multiples.  This is what I use to make the little meat charms and jewelry I sell at fairs and on Etsy, but you can scan, print and shrink virtually any image.  I use the sheets made by Grafix, which you can get online (Blick is the most consistently inexpensive) or at Pearl art stores, among others.  It comes in white and clear.  You can even call up Grafix for a free sample to try it out.  Occasionally I get a wonky pack that doesn’t shrink correctly but they always replace it right away.  Shrinky Dinks brand also sells all the varieties.

No matter which film you use, remember to use colors at about half strength, as they tend to saturate and darken when your piece shrinks.  Expect your finished piece to measure about 40-50% of the original in each dimension.  I set my oven to between 275-300°F so everything shrinks evenly.  For about ten seconds after they come out you can flatten (or bend) your pieces, but use gloves because they will be extemely hot.

I also read recently that you can use plastic from your recycling bin marked #6 as shrink film.  Apparently the clear plastic kind (think clamshell take-out containers) and the opaque styrofoam kind (think supemarket meat trays) both work.  I have also heard that the fumes are not the healthiest stuff to be breathing so I can’t really recommend this.  I assume given the recent CPSIA brouhaha that store-bought shrink sheets are non-toxic because they are designed for kids, but PLEASE correct me if you have info to the contrary.

Today I am Loving

The blog “Junk Mail Gems.”  Written by a fellow product designer, I found this blog via one of my other favorites, Girl on the Rocks.  Both of these talented ladies are extremely resourceful when it comes to “junk,” recycling everything from post-Halloween jack-o-lanterns to net produce bags, turning them into truly useful items like baked goods and dish scrubbers.  Both women also have a thing for the patterns inside security envelopes, which they’ve turned into gorgeous nameplates, collages, price tags and yes, other envelopes.

With the holidays coming up and the economy slowing down, crafty recycling just makes good financial (And organizational) sense. I’m knitting my double balls of discontinued yarn into little “scarflets” that fasten with (leftover) buttons since they are too short to wrap.  The single balls of yarn are becoming pom-poms and “ribbon,” which will adorn my recycled holiday gift-wrap.  Also, I’m turning my canister of cut up credit cards (yes, I save them, shut up) into a wreath for the Hayes Valley “Circle of Joy” benefit auction.  The leaves are pretty much done, but I still have to add the flowers.

credit card wreath for hayes valley circle of joy benefit auction

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but to me, it really is the thought that counts.  That’s why I like handmade gifts so much.  They’re completely original and really show that you are loved, because they took valuable, valuable time. I probably won’t hold on to that sled-shaped peppermint candle holder from Wal-Mart, but I will treasure those mittens, that cheese board, and those earrings until they disintegrate.

When God Closes a Door, He Opens a Closet

I was saddened to learn recently that San Francisco’s Stitch Lounge is closing its doors for good.  Though it will continue to operate as an online entity, offering tutorials and a blog, their fantastic, in-person classes are coming to an end on September 12th (click here to sign up for one last class).  Here is a snippet of the announcement the lovely Biz Misses of Stitch posted on their website:

Some 4 and a half years ago, three hopeful soon-to-be-Stitch-B*tches held hands and jumped and opened the first sewing lounge ever….We achieved so much more than we ever imagined and so it is with pride that we look to our next life chapter where we focus on our families and (non sewing) full-time careers. To make room for our new experiences, the time has come for us to close the San Francisco lounge (the brick and mortar portion of it, that is). While the physical studio will no longer be available, we will keep the virtual lounge alive and continue to post free downloadable tutorials and keep you up to date with the goings on in the sewing and fashion world and with the crazy B*tches!

But as they say, when God closes a door, he opens a closet, sometimes in the form of a tiny fiber arts studio.  On August 25th, Jamie Chan, the organizer of my favorite craft fair, Bazaar Bizarre, and the person who introduced me to needle felting (i.e. wool sculpture) announced the opening of Urban Fauna Studio, the brick-and-mortar entity of her business, Mary Jane’s Attic.  UFS is located at 1311 16th Avenue (between Irving and Judah) and has hours Friday - Monday 10-6:30 PM and by appointment.  Like the Stitch Lounge, Urban Fauna Studio is an open workshop that hosts classes, sells supplies and runs a consignment boutique.  But whereas Stitch emphasized sewing, Urban Fauna is all about everything fiber arts, from spinning to felting to weaving, and only carries eco-friendly, socially responsible products by independent designers, like Biz Miss favorite, Girl on the Rocks.  I am VERY excited to stop in this weekend.

Also on my list of must-see shops this weekend is WhizBang Fabrics, in the Mission/Potrero Hill neighborhood.  WhizBang also opened just this year and were responsible for this summer’s RockMake Street Festival, which combines my two most favorite things: rock and roll and crafting.  I couldn’t decide whether to apply as a maker or as a musician, but then I found out I’d be on my honeymoon then, so that settled that.  Located at 3150 18th Street, Suite 113 (on Treat @ 18th), WhizBang carries mostly printed cottons, both vintage and modern.  Though I have yet to visit, they carried many WhizBang fabrics at the Stitch Lounge and from what I’ve seen, the designs are really fantastic.

Though neither Urban Fauna Studio nor WhizBang are a substitute for the Stitch Lounge, they both give me something new to get excited about and it’s nice to still see Biz Misses blazing trails out there.  Rock on, ladies!

Make it Your Damn Self…if You Can Make it Fast

One of the advantages of being a creative Biz Miss is that you don’t need to turn to corporate America for many of your office supplies. You can make them yourself. Not only do you save money (and the time spent shopping for these things), you can feel proud that you are exercising your creative muscles and putting your unique stamp onto the things you use every day.

diy plannerI first learned the joy of making your own stuff when I couldn’t find the kind of daily planner I wanted after months of shopping. I needed something that was about A5 (half letter) size, showed an entire week per spread, and had the hours of the day written in. A little section for notes would also be good, but I wasn’t going to be that picky. When nothing turned up, I decided to print my own. I bought a little binder and a few hundred pages of blank A5 paper from Kinokuniya and drew up exactly what I wanted in Adobe Illustrator. It only cost me $6 (far less than if I had bought one) and years later I’m still using it because it’s organized exactly the way my brain wants it to be.

car logThis week I made three things: a car log (with sleeve to stick to the dashboard), a spending diary, and a new wallet to keep my business cards and petty cash separate from my personal stuff. The car log and spending diary took only 5-10 minutes each to make, and they were made entirely from items in my recycling bin. The wallet, on the other hand, while also made entirely from leftover materials, took an inordinate amount of time to make — I’d say 8-10 hours. It’s a fairly complex wallet and I’ve never made a wallet before, so I’m proud to have a finished product that looks and functions exactly the way I want it to, but I probably would have been better off buying something like this for a measly $13.

diary coverspending diarywallet openwallet frontwallet back

I’ve already got my next two projects lined up: a cash apron for craft and design fairs to replace my huge and inconvenient lock box, and a large canvas tote for carrying around sales samples (complete with Sweet Meats iron-on logo) so I can finally toss the ratty plastic H&M shopping bag I’ve been using.

For more DIY inspiration, check out some of the posts at “girl on the rocks.” In this one, she reuses (and improves!) security envelopes from the bills she pays online, and in this one she makes her own fiber content stamps for labeling her yarn. I now turn all of my unused bill envelopes inside out, too. Put a little message or image in the clear window and voila! — a perfect gift envelope that’s personal, funky and doesn’t cost a dime.

If you’ve got a nifty office/studio supply project you’d like to show off, link to it in the comments!